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After the economic boom of the 1990s, the Great Recession came as a shock to most Americans. With investments from real estate to stock losing value, families all over the country worried about how to make ends meet after a layoff or a foreclosure. Almost everyone was impacted on some level—including those with college degrees, who faced nearly double-digit unemployment rates. Many college grads lost work or ended up in jobs that were beneath their skill level. And thousands began asking the question: if college graduates are unable to find jobs, why should I bother earning my degree?
During that time, Scholarship America and others continued to tout the economic benefits of an educated workforce – both for individuals, and for the country as a whole. Last summer, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce released an extensive study backing up the claim that college graduates have weathered the economic storm more successfully than their fellow high school graduates. (Scholarship America president and CEO Lauren Segal recently spoke on this topic at an Aspen Wye Fellows event.)
“For college graduates, the dark clouds have come with a silver lining,” write the authors of The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm.
The darkest of those clouds is this: recent college grads are having a harder time finding a job than their counterparts in previous generations. Nearly seven percent of recent grads are facing unemployment, compared with 4.5 percent of the total amount of college graduates who are currently unemployed.
But compare that to the unemployment rate for recent high school grads or those without college degrees – 24 percent – and it’s clear that going to college remains a wise financial decision in the long run.
The statistics are similar for underemployment. As of May 2012, 8.4 percent of four-year degree holders were underemployed, compared to the 17.3 percent rate for high school graduates— more than twice as high.
In addition to lower unemployment and underemployment rates, college graduates hold an advantage when it comes to newly created jobs. Even during the recession, nearly 200,000 jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree were added. As the recovery picked up, two million more jobs were created post-recession (as of May 2012).
Those with only a high school diploma haven’t been as lucky. Workers with only a high school education or less lost more than 5.6 million jobs during the recession, and continue to lose more. In fact, over the last two decades, the growth in employment in America has been entirely due to an increase in college-educated workers.
That means that college-degree holders who may have lost their jobs will have an easier time finding a new one.
This trend, like it has for decades, looks to continue. And unless America substantially increases the number of degree-holders in the workforce, the country will not be able to keep pace with the demand for skilled labor.
Scholarship America President Lauren Segal had the privilege of presenting at a recent gathering of Aspen Wye Fellows at the Aspen Institute’s historic Georgian plantation house in Queenstown, Md.
Segal met with the Wye Fellows to discuss challenges in educational access and college success.
Launched in 2006, the Aspen Wye Fellows is a group of Chesapeake Bay area residents who share the Aspen Institute’s interest in global dialogue and who play a key role in sustaining the Institute’s mission, expanding its programs, and ensuring its future.
The Aspen Institute is an education and policy think-tank based in Washington, DC, whose mission is “to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.”
“The barriers to achieving a postsecondary degree or other training continue to grow disproportionately. Tuition is increasing, access to federal grants is decreasing and student loan defaults are on the rise,” said Segal in her presentation to the group. “I appreciated the opportunity to share important information with the Wye Fellows about the costs and the economic impacts and rewards of postsecondary education.”
The Wye Fellows host events that bring an international perspective to the surrounding communities. Through lectures by international diplomats and policy experts, panel discussions with public- and private-sector leaders, and book talks by authors and academics, the Aspen Institute offers Aspen Wye Fellows an opportunity for intimate exchange and meaningful dialogue with some of the most stimulating thinkers of our time.
Past guests of the Wye Fellows include Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and editor and Emmy award-winning producer/correspondent; Jason Beaubien, global health and development correspondent for National Public Radio; and Alan Wurtzel, former Chairman and CEO of Circuit City.
By Jay Morris, Elected to Scholarship America Board January 2013
My paternal grandfather, John Baker Morris, migrated to Pennsylvania from the fields of West Point, Ga. with a fourth grade education. He struggled with alcoholism, but was a prolific reader and the most intelligent man I have ever known. My grandfather was the only person in my life who encouraged me to get a college education at all costs.
I was the first person in my immediate family to attend college, and had full responsibility for financing my education. I worked my entire four years as an undergraduate, taking on year-round jobs, such as housekeeping at the VA Hospital in Durham, N.C. and the University of North Carolina Hospital at Chapel Hill. I also spent one summer working the second shift as a GE material handler and a third shift with a cleaning crew in banks.
Another summer was spent as a meter reader, and another as a groundskeeper for an electric company. With the help of Nick Fragnito, the Executive Director of the Allentown Boys’ Club, and Reverend Horace Melton, Executive Director of the Allentown NAACP, I was able to secure scholarships, which helped supplement the income I needed to acquire a bachelor’s degree in sociology from North Carolina Central University.
Because of the strong belief in education that was instilled in me by my grandfather, I was inspired to pursue my law degree, master’s degree and PhD, all the while continuing to work full-time.
I firmly believe that Scholarship America embodies the spirit of individuals like Nick and Reverend Melton—people who were deeply concerned about my needs and the needs of those of us in the underclass. It is my desire to utilize my skills and talents to do for others what was done for me. I believe that Scholarship America personifies this same conviction and I look forward to serving on the Board.
Scholarship America has teamed up with Fastweb, the nation’s largest scholarship search engine, to help more students find funds for college.
The partnership with Fastweb, the leading website for scholarship and financial aid information owned by Monster Worldwide, Inc., will bring more funding opportunities to students registered with the organization.
To register with Scholarship America, students complete a free online profile that includes information about their academic standing, extracurricular activities, volunteer and paid work, and family financial information. The students are then matched with scholarship opportunities for which they may be eligible, based on the information provided. Until now, those opportunities were limited to scholarships awarded through Scholarship America programs.
“This new partnership with Fastweb changes all that,” said Scholarship America president
and CEO, Lauren A. Segal. “Now students who register with Scholarship America will be matched to our opportunities, as well as every eligible opportunity through Fastweb’s database. We’re thrilled to have a ‘one-stop shop’ for students to use for their scholarship search and application.”
Students will be matched with opportunities via Fastweb’s search tool, which lists roughly 1.5 million scholarships. Opportunities presented to students include traditional and merit-based scholarships, as well as newer, social-media and contest-based scholarships.
“We are thrilled to partner with Scholarship America and marry their existing opportunities with our unmatched scholarship matching capabilities,” said Fastweb Director, Mark Nelson. “We look forward to a long partnership with a truly outstanding organization.”
Organization’s Founder Honored for 55 Years of Service
Dr. irving Fradkin, Scholarship America’s 92 year-old founder, was honored for his 55 years of active volunteering and advocacy at a recent celebration in Fall river, Mass., where Scholarship America’s first Dollars for Scholars chapter was started. At the event, attended by Rep. Joe Kennedy, Dr. Fradkin was issued a citation for his decades of ervice. Dr. Fradkin also recently received an honorable mention for the Citizen Service Before Self Award, which honors hometown heroes who have gone above and beyond for others in some extraordinary way.
Scholarship America Hires Senior Vice President, Education Programs & Policy
Max Espinoza will join the organization as senior vice president, education programs and policy on May 28. Espinoza will play a key role as a member of the leadership team in advancing our mission, and will act as the lead spokesperson on education issues. He will also provide strategy, development and operations oversight to the organization’s flagship program, Dollars for Scholars, as well as Dreamkeepers, Collegiate Partners and the new Dream Award. Prior to his appointment, Espinoza spent more than a decade with the California State Legislature advising elected officials.
$1 Million Grant from Kresge to Expand Dreamkeepers
Scholarship America has received a two-year, $1 million grant from The Kresge Foundation, which will provide capacity-building funds to expand our Dreamkeepers program. By researching successful program models; building collaborative partnerships; and devoting full-time staff to program expansion, the grant will help Dreamkeepers become a fully integrated, self-sustaining, program of Scholarship America. The plan will strengthen and expand the Dreamkeepers network, resulting in a membership model and allowing more colleges to adopt the program at various levels of service.
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