Commentary: Where Are the Jobs for College-Educated Americans?

A new study shows that for many, a college degree doesn’t provide the life people thought it would.

Posted: 01/29/2013 11:40 AM EST

If some new research is to be believed, college has failed us. Almost half of all Americans with college degrees and jobs are in positions for which they are overqualified, according to the nonprofit Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Reports USA Today’s Mary Beth Marklein:

"It is almost the new normal," says lead author Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist and founder of the center, based in Washington.

The number of Americans whose highest academic degree was a bachelor's grew 25 percent to 41 million from 2002 to 2012, statistics released last week from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

The number with associate's degrees increased 31 percent, while the number of Americans for whom the highest level of education attainment was a master's or doctorate degree grew fastest of all — 45 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

One of the sadder conclusions of this study is that while some Americans end up profiting from college with a good, well-paying job, many other college graduates are left without the financial rewards traditionally associated with a college degree.

“This study uses empirical evidence relating to labor markets to argue that a growing disconnect has evolved between employer needs and the volume and nature of college training of students,” write the study’s authors, “and that the growth of supply of college-educated labor is exceeding the growth in the demand for such labor in the labor market.”

For years many African-Americans — and Americans of all ethnicities, really — have been convinced that getting a college degree will ensure future financial success. President Obama has made it a goal for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

As it stands, however, simply having those college graduates doesn’t amount to much when we can’t provide those educated people with proper jobs. Does this mean people should stop going to college and instead just graduate high school and go to work as a cashier at Wal-Mart? Not necessarily.

But it does mean that before we convince more people to take out a lot of student loans in order to go to a college, we should consider how to better build an environment in which college graduates can succeed.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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 (Photo:  Dorann Weber / Getty Images)

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