Nation World — 15 February 2012

Graduation is still months away, but senior economics major Celina Adame is already worried about finding a job.

“The type of work I want to do – the finance sector — isn’t doing so well,” she says. “My parents helped pay for my education and I don’t want to become a financial burden for them.”

Adame is not alone. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center  found that the unemployment rate for 18-to-24 year olds was 16.3 percent. The rate of employment for college-aged Americans is the lowest since the government started keeping track in 1948.

Much like the economy of the last four years, the idea that new college graduates should be financially independent may also be coming to a slow, grinding halt. The Pew survey found that two-thirds of parents believe children should be financially independent by age 22. That may seem like a solid majority, but it’s a significant drop from the 80% that felt that way in 1993.

The same poll found that a majority of Americans believe young adults are suffering the most due to the economy, and that today’s generation of young adults has a harder time paying for college, finding jobs, buying homes or saving for the future than their parents’ generation.

Adame, who attends Whittier College, a small liberal arts school in Whittier, California, agrees with the Pew survey’s findings that it’s young adults that are having the hardest time in this economy.

“Definitely, because first of all, we probably don’t have any experience or training that’s required for jobs that are out there,” Adame told American News Report. “Also, companies are trimming the fat as it is. They’re not going to hire these new people and spend the time and money that it takes to give these youngsters the experience that they need. No one is willing to give these kids experience, and everyone wants experience.”

“I think the economic downturn is really discouraging for a lot of young people, especially people who just graduated,” says 20-year-old Poonam Narewatt, a junior studying English and political science. “We’re taught that if we work hard and do well in college and whatnot, we’ll succeed and get a job, but that’s no longer the case.”

Narewatt believes the problem goes beyond students holding out for the best job possible. “It’s not even like ‘oh, I can’t get my dream job,’ it’s ‘oh, I can’t even get a job at my local department store.’”

With the rising number of recent college graduates that are out of work, talk has turned to whether the economy is even capable of supporting thousands of new graduates each year. Narewatt disagrees. “I don’t think our college graduates are limited to America,” she said. “I think the world’s economy can support graduates. I think our generation just needs to get creative. Capitalize on the things we’re good at. Our government needs to just try and get along enough to get something done… anything.”

Rather than enter into a depleted job market, some graduates are continuing their education. “The graduates that I know that are not attending graduate school are having a tough time finding jobs,” says 23-year-old Taylor Chin, who graduated last year with a degree in chemistry and is in his first year at Optometry school. “I knew that graduate school would be financially possible because I conducted enough research to know that I would be able to take out loans to invest in my future.”

But while there’s no debate that young adults are entering a less than ideal economic climate, the same Pew survey found that nearly nine-in-ten of today’s 18-to-34 year-olds feel they earn enough money or expect to earn enough lead the kind of life they want.

Narewatt believes this optimism is due to a “culture of winners” today’s young adults have been raised in. “I attribute the optimism to Mr. Rogers,” she said. “He told us we were special. We got trophies in little league even if we were the losing team. I don’t think it’s bad that we are positive, it sure wouldn’t help to be negative.”

Adame is suspicious that young adults know what it takes to be financially independent. “I want to say that these kids don’t know what they’re talking about,” she said. “Do they really know how much it takes for bills and stuff? Their phone bill, electric, water, car insurance, gas… it makes me think, do they really know all the costs that they have to take into account for their everyday lives?”

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Matthew Grant Anson

Matthew is a student at Whittier College in Whittier, California, and managing editor of the school’s Quaker Campus student newspaper.

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