College students will face career challenges in current economy

by Maeve Callahan – Staff Writer – mecallah@unca.edu

Shia LaBeouf left Broadway because he was unable to adapt his early training to the big stage.

Many students are finding this same approach to their own college studies. Four years and thousands of dollars spent will not guarantee a job for college graduates in this current economy.

Two-thirds of college seniors graduating in 2011 had an average of $26,600 in loan debt from educational expenses, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

Annual in-state tuition for UNC Asheville costs students $5,866 according to university officials. If in four years if you do not buy any books, the cost comes to more than $23,000 for a bachelor’s degree.

The unemployment rate reached 8.1 percent for the nation in 2012, and 9.2 percent of North Carolina’s residents were unemployed according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Studies found the unwelcoming job market has led to young college graduates working in lower paying jobs that do not require a college education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found 37 percent of college graduates in occupations requiring no more than a high school diploma.

Sources say unemployment rates for college graduates reached 8.8 percent in 2011, which is higher than the national unemployment rate.

The National Survey on Student Engagement reports more than half of college seniors choose a major based on the ability to find a job. The problem reveals itself.

Many college students approach education as a means to an end. Bachelor’s degrees become a stair step up the employment ladder. Yet the misguided approach to education as a way to increase earning potential results in students failing to fully engage in learning.  Education intends to enrich a person’s life. Four years studying in an university develops critical thinking skills, creativity and innovation. But it does not intend to teach a wide range of trades.

Ideally, a student engages in course work and then uses his or her education to learn in their chosen career, with the emphasis placed on engaging and learning.

Instead of engaging with course work and preparing for classes, students rely on cramming for exams to do well enough to pass. In a study conducted by the University of California, the average number of hours college students study each week dropped to only 14 hours, a decrease in 10 hours from the reported 24 hours devoted to studying in 1961.

Students come to class ill prepared, and in class they distract themselves with social media. Studies have found two-thirds of college students used social media while in class, with one-third reporting frequent use. Those reporting frequent use also reported receiving lower grades and higher rates of dissatisfaction.

Shia LaBeouf thought he knew everything there was to know about acting and that assumption cost him a job. College students need to learn something from LaBeouf and make sure to do their homework before sauntering to the stage to accept their degree.

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