As another crop of college graduates frame their diplomas, another dose of reality is about to set in. The financial crisis may be ancient history for this group, most of whom were still in middle school when the market began to plunge. But the effects linger—and new entrants to the job market may be surprised at how difficult it is, even now, to move ahead in this economy.
Eight in 10 new graduates expect to have a job in their field within a year, with more than half expecting to land one within two months, according to an analysis from Upromise.com, a college savings website. That jibes with research from Accenture, which found that 80% of the Class of 2015 say their education prepared them well for the workforce. Yet here’s the reality: 49% of graduates from 2014 and 41% from 2013 report being underemployed (having no job or one that does not require a college degree), Accenture found.
Meanwhile, just 15% of this year’s graduates expect to earn $25,000 or less in their first job. But almost three times that many from the classes of 2013 and 2014 report that level of income. So for entry-level job seekers, it’s still surprisingly tough out there.
Despite their upbeat expectations, most new grads do have a fallback plan: Mom and Dad. About half expect to be financially dependent on their parents for two years after graduation, and they are prepared to move back home and pay rent, Upromise found. This won’t surprise their parents. Nearly a quarter of 25- to 34-year-olds lives with parents or grandparents, up from 11% in 1980, Pew found. This failure to launch is so widespread psychologists have given it a name: emerging adulthood. The share of parents that expect to support their college graduates for two years or more doubled to 36% this year, according to the Upromise analysis.
Why, then, is this class of graduates so optimistic? First, optimism is rightfully a trait for the young, and Millennials possess it in staggering proportions—probably because they were raised by helicopter parents who constantly extolled their greatness and rewarded them with trophies for showing up. But more is at work here. The economy has been growing since 2009, when this class was taking the SATs. In their college years, this group has known only rising stock prices and an improving jobs and housing market. Consider: through four years of higher education the S&P 500 rose 2%, 16%, 32% and 13%. Even for the uninvested, that’s an encouraging backdrop.
This optimism may also spring from the Class of 2015's improved career preparation. Accenture found that 82% considered the availability of jobs in their field before choosing a major. That’s up from 75% in the Class of 2014. To minimize student debt, more from this class also started at a community college. And—a crucial step—some 72% of this year’s class had an internship or apprenticeship while in school, up from 65% of graduates the year before.
This is all smart planning. More than half who took part in an internship said it led to a job, Accenture found. At the Intern Group, 88% of those who take part in an internship find work at a graduate level job within three months and 95% say the program was good for their career, says David Lloyd, the firm’s founder. Still, it seems we’ll be talking about the Great Recession a while longer.