Recent college graduates step into the abyss
By Ibrahim Hirsi
Special to Sun Thisweek
Every weekday morning as I drive to work at the Wallin Education Partners in Minneapolis, I either yield or stop for the hastening student pedestrians who have just parked their cars at the Burnsville Transit Station, crossing the road to catch buses to their early classes at the University of Minnesota.
The sight of college students with backpacks, riding the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority express buses, reminds me of my years as a student at the University of Minnesota, which ended just a year ago when I graduated with a journalism degree and an African and African-American studies minor.
Earlier this month, some of these students walked – along with my brother and thousands of other students – across the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena stage to honor and celebrate the end of many long and arduous years of studying.
On one hand, I was excited to share the happiness and celebration with the graduates. On the other hand, I was deeply distraught by the lethargic economy, which increasingly victimizes the rising professionals.
Despite the students’ enthusiastic desire to graduate, the nation’s work force has a poor welcome for the 2012 college graduating class.
According to an April study done for and reported on by the Associated Press, one in two college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. The study stated that many with bachelor’s degrees find low-paying jobs or employment that doesn’t require a college education, and are competing with people who never set foot in a college or university.
On top of the anguish of unemployment, the new graduates will have to start repaying their student loans to the U.S. Department of Education six months after the graduation date.
The pressure to pay back loans and the need for some graduates to make financial contributions to their families have forced some recent graduates to search for any kind of jobs, even ones not in fields they hoped to work in or at the salary they expected to earn.
For instance, a former classmate from the university’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication who graduated with me last May, now works at a Minneapolis McDonald’s, barely making the minimum wage. Another friend, who graduated with honors from the university’s College of Liberal Arts, still remains unemployed more than a year after he graduated.
But what worries me the most aren’t the widening unemployment rates, especially among minority communities. What worries me the most is the fact that many high school students may not plan to attend college because they see college graduates working alongside them in places such as McDonald’s and Target. The consequences of not obtaining a college education are brutal. The young people without higher education won’t have the ability to think critically and may not make good choices in life. They may not be involved in improving their own communities and neighborhoods.
To avoid these consequences, the graduates who make the extra effort to attend colleges and universities should be rewarded with deserving jobs and salaries. And the White House should assuage the duress of unemployment by creating decent jobs for aspiring recent graduates.
Ibrahim Hirsi is a Burnsville-based writer who graduated from the University of Minnesota with a journalism degree and a minor in African and African-American studies. Hirsi’s articles have been published in numerous publications, including the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio’s commentary page and the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He has also lived on the East Coast, where he’s written for New York’s Long Island Newsday and the Record-Journal, a local newspaper in Meriden, Conn.