Writing at The New York Times, Gramblinite Charles Blow asks himself how to encourage students during a struggling economy and low employment rates when he addresses Grambling State University’s graduates on May 10.
I’m scheduled to deliver the commencement address Friday at my alma mater, Grambling State University in Louisiana, so I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to the America into which these students are graduating.
I must admit that finding hopeful, encouraging things to say has been exceedingly difficult, in part because the landscape at the moment — particularly for young adults — is so bleak.
Here are some of the facts that I’m up against rhetorically and that these students will be up against more literally.
1. Being a college graduate is becoming less exceptional. As the Pew Research Center pointed out in November, “Record shares of young adults are completing high school, going to college and finishing college.” College graduation rates are growing even more in other countries. And Anya Kamenetz noted in The Atlantic magazine in December, “During the past three decades, the United States has slipped from first among nations to 10th in the percentage of people holding a college degree, even as the job market has eroded for Americans without one.”
2. Graduates are emerging with staggering amounts of debt and entering a still-sluggish job market. This is causing them to delay major life decisions, like marriage or buying a home or even moving out of their parents’ home.
A Pew report from February 2012 found that:
“Since 2010, the share of young adults ages 18 to 24 currently employed (54 percent) has been its lowest since the government began collecting these data in 1948. And the gap in employment between the young and all working-age adults — roughly 15 percentage points — is the widest in recorded history. In addition, young adults employed full time have experienced a greater drop in weekly earnings (down 6 percent) than any other age group over the past four years.”
Read more at The New York Times