This weekend Southeast Missouri State University graduated more students than ever before. It is a testament to that fine institution and the leadership that continues to grow the university's mission each year.
Unfortunately these graduates, along with graduates of other Heartland institutions, will join millions of other new college graduates spilling into the economy. Job prospects for many are dim, and the amount of student debt many new graduates have accumulated is staggering. Student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt in this nation and is approaching 1 trillion dollars. Statistics show that nearly half of all new graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. It's scary to think of the implications for our economy with so many college grads with this kind of debt. If they can't get a job, they can't repay their loans…and if they can't repay their loans, they won't be putting any money into the economy. It's a vicious cycle.
According to people a lot smarter than I am, young people are making poor decisions about matching up a degree with the prospect of getting a job associated with that degree. Many are graduating with no idea about what kind of career they might have with the education they just spent four years and a lot of money acquiring. There's a big disparity between the employment prospects for a degree in the science or health fields than for the arts and humanities. Students need to be educated in the realities of our current job market and how to prepare themselves for the opportunities that are out there for them. When it comes to landing a job, your college major definitely makes a difference. We simply must do a better job of counseling our young people about successful career options and securing the smartest degree, not just a degree.