Should I Stay in School? Just Look at the Unemployment Rate

student-loan-debt-2.jpgOne of the largest trends I’ve noticed in the last few years is the increasing rate at which newly graduated college students and those older are extending their stay in school. Of my friends who recently graduated, very few of them were content to go back to mom and dad’s to live at home and work in an entry-level position. Many didn’t even take the famed gap-year–instead choosing to go straight into graduate school. It’s really no surprise. More and more employers are seeking those who have achieved some sort of college degree. An Associate’s degree is good, a Bachelor’s is better, and a Master’s or Doctorate degree is like writing your own check to success…or so I thought.
In June 2011 the Pittsburgh Business Times reported an estimated 87.6% of 2010 Law School graduates found employment in the months following commencement. After reading this I found myself a little disconcerted considering the national unemployment rate for May-September of that year averaged around 9.6%. While a 2.8% disparity doesn’t seem like a great deal, the difference is still unsettling for one very important reason: student loans.
As an undergraduate I am fortunate not to have any debt to my name, but with so many of my peers already neck deep in loans or on some sort of financial aid I can’t help but think that I will be amongst them soon enough–especially when a year of law school can easily cost $45,000. Often times I think many undergraduate students choose the pre-professional tracks such as pre-health and pre-law simply for the expected big payout in the long run. It’s true that lawyers tend to earn more in a given year than many other occupations (the median annual salary settling just above 100K as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics), but if no one is hiring, than those already considerable debts will only compound.
A debt scenario runs on a continuous loop through my mind that goes something like this:
Social and parental pressure dictates you attend a First Tier school + 45,000$ tuition x 4 years (taken in loans) + rent + cell phone bill + groceries + gas (prices of which may or may not force you to take public transit) + health insurance + auto insurance + 45,000 tuition x 3 (or 4) years graduate school + taxes (can’t forget them) = severe debt, impending depression and subsequent reliance on Parents
This situation may seem slightly exaggerated but when you consider the rising costs of living and the slump that the employment rate for law students has fallen into, it really isn’t so difficult to imagine. So maybe this could also explain why so many have decided to stay in school. Maybe right now “real life” is just too terrifying. At least in school we’re safe–albeit temporarily.
Contributed By: Meg R. DeFrancesco
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See Also: The Pre-Law Outlook, Persistence of Economic Downturn Forces a New Legal Landscape, I Need a Job!