By Kim Hartman
College graduates moving back home after graduation — an escape from Alcatraz or return to Paradise? The once widely-considered symbol of failure has become increasingly more common among college students across the country.
According to collegegrad.com, two-thirds of U.S. college students return to their familial homes post-graduation. Listed on its homepage, the 2006 nationally-conducted survey had approximately 2,400 respondents.
“I think that we are moving away from American culture’s perspective that the farther away from home a child ends up, the more successful parenting must have been,” Flagler College counselor Tracey Hardy said. “I believe that we are now more understanding of the value of being closer to our families, and there is less of a social stigma placed on an adult child living at home.”
The growing popularity of the trend induces diverse reactions from Flagler students.
“Parents should teach their children the value of hard work and independence,” spring 2006 graduate Valeta Cameron said. “The kids who have been babied their whole life — the ones who their mommies and daddies always cooked and cleaned after them and coddled them — they go home. It’s such a waste of life. If you have enough money and can live on your own but choose to live with your parents — that’s disgusting. That’s just absolutely disgusting.”
According to Cameron, “I wanted the independence of being on my own. My personal faith motivated me to be where I am.”
She currently resides in an Orlando apartment while attending Florida A & M law school, away from her parent’s home in Palm Bay.
Graduating last semester, Dana Hansen began working for Gideon Cardozo, a graphic design company in Boca Raton. She started at a net pay of $30,000 a year and saved for a couple months before moving out. Hansen lives with her long-term boyfriend in Palm Beach Gardens.
“I made sure I had a job before I moved out,” Hansen, 22, said. “I had built up a great nest egg for myself. By September I’d had enough of my family anyway, so I got a place of my own.”
Hansen also believes that personality plays a big role in the choice to move back home or not.
“Extroverts want to get out there and see the world, while introverts want to stick to what’s familiar,” she said. “A lot people are adverse to change and scared of the unknown, but someone outgoing or well-traveled isn’t going to be deterred. Like me, I’m more introverted, so I went to work for the company I did my internship at. If I like something, I’ll keep it.”
Tackling the issue from a financial perspective, economics professor Yvan Kelly said a diminished capacity to service debt and a higher cost of living are factors of the move back home.
“Students are carrying a much bigger debt load than they were in years before,” Kelly said. “Student loans, less disposable income, a more expensive lifestyle, higher education costs, higher real estate prices, tougher financial goals—all of these are factors. There’s an attractiveness of staying for free.”
Feeling financial pressure, spring 2006 graduate Nicole Pease moved back home for economic reasons, but she intends for her stay to be temporary instead of permanent. Pease works as an auditor for Hoyman, Dobson and Company in Melbourne.
“I did it to save money,” Pease, who nets $2,400 a month, said. “I plan on moving out on my own in about a year. I’ll be 23 by then, and personally, I think that’s long enough.”
She feels that students moving back home directly correlates with increased job market competition.
“A lot of students are in highly-competitive job industries, and it’s hard for them to stand out because their field isn’t specialized,” Pease said. “Like if someone majors in business, there’s 50,000 other people out there just like them. They can’t find a job, so they move back home.”
But for others, their motives to move back home have nothing to do with economics. When communication major Ray Jarvis graduates in December, he plans to live in the addition that his parents’ built in their Fairhaven, Mass., home.
“It’s not about the money at all,” Jarvis said. “I’ve always had a good relationship with my parents. They’ve been the biggest supporters of my life, and I want to always be a part of their lives.”
To some, financial concerns and familial ties are irrelevant. Grounded in independent convictions, Flagler alumna Marissa Dimick, 28, moved out of her parents’ home in Nova Scotia more than 10 years ago and never looked back.
“I never even considered going back home after college,” Dimick said. “I’ve always worked multiple jobs, managed my money well and been on my own. I think students moving back home really has nothing to do with anything but selfishness. They say to themselves, ‘Oh, it’s a free meal and a free roof,’ so that’s what they do, and it’s selfish.”
Still weighing their options, some students will have their future residence depend on how their plans develop. Graduating in spring 2007, psychology major Gabe McCall plans to attend graduate school after finishing at Flagler.
“Where I end up depends on which school I get into,” McCall said. “My preference is not to live back at home, but we’ll see what happens. I’m open to anything.”