Valley college grads returning home to the nest
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – They’ve been called “boomerangers,” “nesters” and maybe most accurately, “the young unemployed.”
For reasons that mostly stem from a stagnant economy, recent college graduates nationwide have had a difficult time finding employment in their field of study, and would be fortunate to find any employment at all.
Those young graduates raised in the valley are no different.
Twentysomething Inc., a research and consulting firm, found that as much as 85 percent of new college grads will return home to live with their parents. The lack of jobs and massive college debt is not providing opportunities for grads to afford housing and pay for their own meals.
“After 20 years of preparation in school and finally completing it, I’d be pissed to have to go home and live with my parents,” said Connor Marx, a second-year student at Colorado Mountain College.
Marx, 20, is originally from Minnesota and said he plans on earning his two-year associate degree and moving back to Minnesota to attend a four-year school to earn his bachelor’s degree. He does not yet know what he wants to study and has been taking prerequisite courses.
“I’m pissed at the situation. We’re ideally supposed to be raised well, finished high school, go to college and have a specific degree for a specific occupation and that is supposed to set you up for success,” said Marx. “It doesn’t seem like that’s happening.”
Cody Chamberlain, an adviser at CMC, said that in his two-year tenure at the Aspen campus he has noticed trends that differ from the traditional route young people take to further their education.
“A lot of [students] are being more practical,” Chamberlain said. “They are understanding that they need to get a job. I think there is that pressure too from their high school counselors when they’re graduating and also from their family and their parents.”
That practicality means some students might not be following their passion. He said he sees more students going to school and getting into programs such as nursing, where jobs are available. National statistics show the demand for registered nurses is greater than most other professions.
But Chamberlain explained that having an associate degree is becoming more popular for its convenience. Squeezing in time to take classes is difficult for someone who needs to work in order to meet day-to-day needs. And higher education is rapidly becoming more expensive, especially at four-year universities.
Colleges and universities are pumping out graduates faster than they can find work. Some are beginning to consider whether the cost of their education outweighs the benefits. Chamberlain said that it is never a bad idea to seek out schooling.
“I think that a lot of people are still wanting that college education. Once you get your education, no one can take that away,” he said.
Chamberlain also stressed the importance of networking and seeking out opportunities to gain experience, such as internships. He said school can open up some doors, but the more proactive students are, the more opportunities become available.
Jon Jay, a boomeranger, attended the University of Denver and finished last June. He grew up in the valley and graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 2006. He has been absorbed into the growing population of young people looking to begin a career, and has moved back home.
On a full-ride academic scholarship, Jay earned a master’s degree in global economics in five years. He also completed an internship with U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., in Washington, D.C.
Jay, who has ambitions of working for the state department and becoming a diplomat, has been applying for fellowships and teaching opportunities overseas. He said that he needs the experience for his resume. Like Chamberlain, he explained the importance of networking to get hired.
“If you don’t know anyone, you don’t have a shot,” Jay said. “It’s not just turning in an application anymore. It’s making a follow-up phone call, sending a thank-you note after an interview – that is, if you’re lucky enough to get an interview.”
Currently, Jay works as a substitute teacher for the Roaring Fork School District and a lifeguard supervisor at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
Jay said attending college was always a priority for him. But unexpectedly, he has found it more difficult than he thought to get a job, especially with his strong credentials.
“I don’t recall anyone ever telling me that this process was so particular,” he said.
Jay is trying to stay positive, which is the only thing many recent grads can do.
“The biggest thing is since I have to live at home, I’m pretty darn happy that my parents live in the valley. That’s kind of the silver lining to my failed goals,” he joked.
Marx shared that sentiment, saying he’s going to enjoy Aspen while he’s here studying and will use the experience to help him decide what he wants to do long-term.