America’s economy hit a major downturn in 2008. The housing bubble crises left Americans in economic turmoil, leaving many individuals financially destitute. Many questions have developed concerning the recovery rate. If the economy is recovering, as the media suggests, why are so many college students and graduates still living at home?
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 61 percent more college students and graduates live with their families now than they did 12 years ago. What is contributing to this trend?
For St. Augustine native Katie Hudson, 24, it’s simply the smart choice.
Advantages of Living at Home
Hudson currently lives with her grandparents and has worked at multiple St. Augustine stores in management positions. Although not in school now, Hudson plans on going back to get her business degree.
When asked, most students, including Hudson, say that living at home is a good way to save money and cover future expenses.
“At the time they [students living at home] can save up. They’re not paying the rent, so they’re saving between $500 to $1000 a month,” Hudson stated. “They can save that money to either pay off their student loans later on, or while they’re looking for a job. They can always have that cushion of money.”
Jess Furlong, Assistant Director of Career Services at Flagler College, said that the Career Center does not see too many graduates moving back home, but for different reasons than one would expect: Students are going to graduate school to prolong finding a job in the “real world”.
“A pretty equal percentage goes to graduate school. It’s really hard because we don’t track those statistics, whether or not they go back home to live with their parents, but I would guess if they didn’t have a job, they are moving back in with their parents,” Furlong said.
Trends also show students are questioning the value of getting college degrees. According to a study done by Center for College Affordability, nearly half of employed college students hold jobs that require less than a bachelor’s degree.
Hudson said she fears college degrees are a waste.
“Nowadays, most people will go to get their English or Journalism [degree] and then up in retail. It’s like they’ll go for one degree and end up working something completely opposite. ” Hudson said.
But Furlong disagreed.
“I’ve also have heard things like the bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma, and a master’s degree is the new bachelor’s degree. We don’t agree with that. It’s still something that not a lot of people have,” Furlough said.
Gallup recently reported trends that the combination of underemployed and unemployed rate for the nation is a staggering 24.5 percent. This brings the economy back into question.
One way to analyze the current economic crisis for college students is to look at a very similar economic problem in history. Much like President Obama, Reagan inherited an economy in crisis. When he took office, he faced a 7.5 percent unemployment rate, peaking at 10.8 percent. However, President Reagan took the economy to phenomenal new levels, increasing the actual size of the economy by 5.6 percent each year and dropping the unemployment level to 6.6 percent by his second term. At the end of his presidency, the nation was considered to be at full employment. His tax cuts increased governmental revenue by a staggering 82 percent.
The current administration has taken a different approach. They have embraced Keynesian economics, which bids that it can jumpstart the economy by effectively dumping more money into it to stimulate it and create artificial growth. This type of economic policy burdens college students with more debt (an estimated $831 billion), on the personal and national level. While this approach can stimulate growth in the stock market, it fails to help families on a local level.
What does this have to do with college students? Policy matters when it comes to our future. Students can work hard, get degrees and make good grades, but at the end of the day, policy can directly affect if we’re out in the world chasing our dreams or sitting on our parents’ couch.
So what’s the solution? Instead of just wishing away the current economic situation, students should become politically and economically involved and demand fiscal responsibility and accountable leadership in Washington.
The fact of the matter is, no matter what statistics any given news cycle may pump out, a dragging economy can be felt by many. Wall Street isn’t connected to Main Street, and college kids can certainly attest to that. Students and graduates are staying in school, prolonging their education and living at home because consumer confidence is still low and the market has not recovered enough.