By Amber M. Winkler, Fordham Foundation
McKinsey’s survey of 4,900 recent graduates of two- and four-year colleges is the latest contribution to a literature of dismal news on our nation’s latest crop of young professionals. These are the top five findings: First, nearly half of all graduates from four-year colleges said that they were in jobs that did not require a four-year degree; graduates with STEM majors, however, were more likely to report the opposite. Second, a little over a third of alums of both two- and four-year colleges had regrets, reporting that they would choose a different major if they could do it all over again. What’s more, students who had majored in visual and performing arts, language, literature, and the social sciences were the most likely to wish they’d majored in something else, while health majors were the least likely. Third, university quality didn’t seem to matter much: Forty-one percent of graduates from U.S. News’s top 100 universities responded that they were not employed in the field they had hoped to enter, while 48 percent of students from other institutions conveyed the same. Fourth, the retail and restaurant industries were among the least desired fields—but ended up employing four to five times the number of graduates who had intended to enter these sectors. And fifth, liberal-arts graduates of four-year colleges fared worse than average across most measures: They tend to be lower paid, less likely to be employed full time, and less prepared for the workplace. McKinsey says that we need to do a better job of communicating job and income trends to students. True. But the evidence is also mounting that maybe college isn’t the right choice for everyone.