had to come to this.
years, high school seniors hoping to go to college in
the fall fixated on getting into their dream college.
But thatís changed. Students still are thinking about
their campus visits and hoping to immerse themselves in
a college culture that seems to best fit who they are.
But in an era marked by job insecurity and student loan
worries, concerns about keeping debt down and finding a
decent job after graduation have turned the longing for
the dream school into a secondary issue.
2003, the Princeton Review has surveyed college
applicants and their parents about the stress associated
with the admission process and getting financial offers
2003, with jobs plentiful and few people asking "Is
college worth it?" only 56 percent of students and
their parents said their stress was high. This year, 76
percent said they were worried about the financial
aspects of college.
98 percent said this year that financial aid will be
necessary to pay for college. Some 65 percent deemed aid
as "extremely necessary."
students and their parents are focused on what happens
after the college years. In a departure from the
pre-recession period, 42 percent said this year that the
main benefit of college is to get a better job and
income. Much to the disappointment of educators, who
want to tout the value of education for its own sake,
fewer families think they can afford college for its
intrinsic value alone. Only 33 percent say the main
benefit of college is "exposure to new ideas"
and 26 percent ranked "education" as the main
the cost of tuition, housing, food and other college
expenses now totaling about $25,000 for one year at an
in-state public universities and $50,000 a year for
private colleges, the preoccupation with outcomes doesnít
seem unrealistic for students who donít want to move
into parentsí basements after college graduation.
job picture for recent college graduates has improved
since the Great Recession, but itís still not
46 percent of the students who were about to graduate in
2016 with bachelorís degrees had a job offer,
according to the National Association of Colleges and
Employers, which does a survey of graduates each year.
Thatís an improvement over 2009, when only 41 percent
had offers as the nation was coming out of the Great
Recession, but itís far below the 80 percent who were
graduating with jobs before the recession, said
association researcher Kenneth Tsang.
addition, pay levels have been stuck. Although college
costs have been rising faster than inflation and the
average college student with student loans leaves
college with about $30,000 in debt, the survey has found
that salaries arenít budging.
2016, the median salary for graduates who found jobs was
$47,358, essentially flat for the last five years, Tsang
said. Pay ranged from $65,000 for math majors to $31,000
for social science majors and $20,000 for those in the
of the risks of low pay or finding no job at all,
students and parents are changing the way they select
colleges. During college visits, instead of simply
eyeing whatís on the walls of dorm rooms or being
dazzled by the new buildings aimed at luring students to
campus, itís become common to quiz admissions staff
and department heads about job prospects.
few years ago this would have been taboo," said Rob
Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review, which
publishes Colleges That Pay You Back, a guide that helps
students evaluate the efforts colleges put into
launching careers. "Now itís expected. So many
schools are trying to defuse the concerns."
most college administrators now realize that they must
at least give lip service to careers, approaches and
spending vary greatly, Franek said.
example, Colleges That Pay You Back ranks the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge,
Mass., as No. 1 in career placement, which isnít
surprising given the nationís demand for people with
engineering-type degrees. But it also ranks Bentley
University, in Waltham, Mass., No. 1 for the best
internships, an asset that is considered increasingly
important in laying the groundwork for getting a job
after graduation. Franek noted that a program at Bostonís
Northeastern University requires students to attend for
five years, with a career-oriented year preparing
students to move into a job.
on-campus visits, career centers are often highlighted.
But itís essential to determine what those centers
actually do and the specific staff numbers devoted to
colleges tend to tout career services, but they arenít
providing the infrastructure that they would need to do
to provide what they tout," Tsang said. When he
meets with career services staff, he said, their usual
complaint is that their budgets have been flat for 10
surveyed, most students say they most appreciated help
with resumes from career service departments, but beyond
that service many career centers are ranked poorly.
are crucial to getting a job quickly," said Tsang,
and some colleges work with students to help them find
internships while also devoting other staff to
recruiting employers offering jobs and internships.
noted that the University of Florida has 25 full-time
staffers working in career services.