Half of college grads working full time, with less pay, deep debt

By Tiffany Hsu Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — For most recent college graduates, these are gloomy times. Only about half are working full-time, with the majority starting with less pay than expected while also dealing with huge student debts. Nearly 6 in 10 think they’ll end up less financially successful than their elders.

It’s a pessimistic outlook from the subjects of a study from Rutgers University, which this spring surveyed hundreds of people who graduated between 2006 and 2011. About 12 percent are under- or unemployed (many of the rest are volunteers, in the military or still in school).

Workers who graduated during the recession — from 2009 through last year — earned a median starting salary of $27,000 — or $3,000 less annually than earlier graduates. Nearly a quarter of all respondents said their current job pays much less than they’d anticipated.

Female graduates earned $2,000 less than their male counterparts.

Most fresh college grads said their first jobs didn’t help them advance along a career path – and that the positions didn’t even require a four-year degree. Four in 10 said they took the work just to get by.

Even to get current jobs, a quarter of recent grads said they’ve had to look below their education level and outside their professional fields. Many have also had to accept less-than-optimal hours and go without health benefits.

Many are still struggling. Among recession-era graduates, the majority get some kind of financial help from their family. A third live at home or get help for housing costs; a quarter rely on family to pitch in for food and healthcare costs.

Student-loan debts — which in 2010 totaled $1 trillion, or more than the amount Americans owed in credit debt — don’t help. A quarter of all the recent graduates haven’t made any progress in paying off what they owe; four in 10 recession-era graduates are in the same boat.

The pressures of education loans have caused 40 percent of graduates since 2006 to delay major purchases such as a home or a car. The burden has caused nearly 30 percent to put off more education. Marriage or committed relationships are currently out of the cards for 14 percent of debtors.

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(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

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