8 Ways Organizations are “Waging War” on Students & Grads!

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During the last presidential election I kept hearing about a “War on Women.”  The term initially shocked me, and caught my attention.

“Could there really be a war on woman?  What is it?  How is it affecting woman?  Who is waging it?  Should I get involved?”

Examples cited by politicians and repeated by the media included legislation restricting contraception; cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood;  medically unnecessary ultrasounds; abortion taxes; abortion waiting periods;  forcing women to tell their employers why they want birth control, and prohibiting insurance companies from including abortion coverage in their policies.

The discussion dominated the airwaves for months and raised important issues that forced candidates to step out from behind their sound bites and share their opinions.

So it got me thinking…

Since 2008, the employment market has tanked for college grads.  There are half dozen studies that show millennial grads are facing issues that previous generations did not.

  • They carry more debt.
  • They face a tighter, more competitive job market that is hiring fewer and fewer grads.
  • They are shouldering a higher percentage of their education costs.
  • More of them are unemployed, or underemployed.

Yet, nothing is being done to alleviate these issues.

  • At the same time, colleges are graduating more students, who need to learn how to search for and to land jobs, while career center budgets are being slashed.
  • While the government and other organizations are falling over themselves to provide the one million veterans from the last decade of wars with career counseling, college tuition programs, and job search programs, very LITTLE is being done to help today’s graduates.

My Google Reader fills up this time of year with personal stories about students facing these issues.  I hear parents grumble, business and organization leaders complain, and legislative leaders offer sound bites, but I don’t see any programs being implemented to help recent grads.  Everyone bitches about their issues but nothing is being done to help grads!

Is there a War on Students and Grads?

After thinking about this, it occurred to me that maybe there was a concerted effort to take advantage of students and grads…but, is it serious enough that one could label it a “War on Students and Grads”?

If there is such a war, how can we provide evidence to that effect?

First, I realized I had to build a list that would clearly outline why grads are getting short changed in today’s economy and who is, or isn’t, helping them!

Next, I started thinking about how we could educate the media, congress and the decision makers at our colleges and universities. I started to think about using PR techniques to build a media frenzy around the “War on Students and Grads” theme, so we can marshal the creative energy of the media, parents, students, grads, alumni, hiring authorities, and entrepreneurs to come up with solutions.  That led me to thinking about the value of a movement, similar to Occupy Wall Street, that could take on a life of its own and spread quickly across all 50 states.

Any good PR campaign needs a compelling message that the intended audience can relate to and so they are inspired to action.  It also needs facts that support its message. To help get the discussion started on what could be included on that list, here are 8 ways our culture and institutions are waging a “War on Students and Grads”!

  1. Congress gives Wall Street & banks access to free cash, but wants to double the interest on Stafford student loans.
  2. Congress allows businesses and individuals to discharge loans in bankruptcies, but not students.
  3. Congress has made it harder for students to get credit cards because they don’t think they are responsible enough to handle credit, yet they will trust them to operate 130 million dollar tanks.
  4. Congress and the Labor Department look the other way as organizations (some report as high as 50%) do not pay students while they are employed in internships.
  5. State legislatures have significantly cut back on funding for higher education, forcing students and their families to take on enormous debt.
  6. Congress is doing little to nothing to help grads get jobs.
  7. Colleges are doing little to nothing to help grads get jobs.
  8. Congress is forcing students to begin paying for health benefits.

Let’s take a closer look at how this is affecting students and grads.

1.    Congress gives Wall Street & banks access to free cash, but wants to double the interest on Stafford student loans.

Wall Street and banks can borrow money at as little as 1% and re-lend it at an enormous profit.  Today, a home owner with good credit can refinance their mortgage for as little as 2.75%.   So why does congress need to make students pay more interest?   It’s not like they are losing money.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government will make $34 billion off student loans in 2013, a number that will only increase with higher interest rates.  Currently, the federal government will make 12.5 cents for every dollar of subsidized loans it gives out, 33.3 cents for every dollar of unsubsidized loans, 54.8 cents for every dollar of graduate student loans and 49 cents for every dollar of parent loans.  Why the War on Students and Grads?

2.    Congress allows businesses and individuals to discharge loans in bankruptcies, but not students.

In 2005, Congress gave private student loan vendors a gift.  They passed a new law that made it impossible for a student to discharge his or her student loans in bankruptcy.  This happened just a few years before the economy tanked, enrollment of out-of-work students soared, and the cost of education zoomed.  If a young person wanted to go out and buy an $80,000 home, there is a good chance he or she would not have the 20 percent down payment required, or an income level to support the loan.  But virtually any student, or immigrant that has been credit-worthy (at least in the past 5 years) can spend $80,000 of borrowed money on a college education.  Large companies and Wall Street firms have benefited from bankruptcy at the cost of trillions of dollars.  Why the War on Students and Grads?

3.    Congress has made it harder for students to get credit cards because they don’t think they are responsible enough to handle credit, yet they will trust them to operate 130 million dollar tanks.

A few years back congress passed legislation that controlled how credit card companies could solicit college students.  Their concern was that students were racking up way too much debt on their credit cards, and didn’t have a way to repay them.  In fact, the average grad had $5,000 of credit card debt, ON TOP of his or her student loan debt.  But with credit now tightened for new students who are facing higher tuition, book costs and related expenses, where are they going to get the extra money?  When banks, Wall Street, and businesses face new legislations,an army of consultants pounce on political leaders and their staffers to wring out concessions and changes in the law.   Why the War on Students and Grads?

4.    Congress and the Labor Department look the other way as organizations (some report as high as 50%) do not pay students while they are employed in internships.

Why do some of the nation’s top companies, companies that make millions in profit, not pay interns?   As internships become an important stepping stone for students to show experience to hiring managers, Internships will continue to be an important experience.  Having to accept an unpaid internship forces students further into debt.  Students that need internships the most are disadvantaged.  Why the War on Students and Grads?

5.    State legislatures have significantly cut back on funding for higher education, forcing students and their families to take on enormous debt.

In 2000, student loan debt had barely crossed the $200 billion mark.  Today it has increased by five-fold  to over $1 trillion dollars.  The average graduate of the class of 2013 is reported to have $27,000 in student loan debt.  That means he or she will end up committing $300 a month over 10 years to pay back the loan, which will affect his or her ability to buy a car, purchase a home, and start a family.  Why the War on Students and Grads?

6.    Congress is doing little to nothing to help grads get jobs.

Congress has pulled out all the stops to help the 1,000,000 returning veterans of war, and has the power to offer tax incentives to organizations to hire grads, but they are doing nothing.  The unemployment rate for recent college grads in their early 20’s is nearly 9%, and when you add in grads that are employed part-time but looking for full time work, and grads that have given up, that number hits 18%.   Worse, in the last 12 years, the US has gone from having the highest share of employed 25-34 year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest.  Wall Street, banks, corporations receive billions of tax benefits — why can’t our best and brightest come up with a way that rewards students for investing their time and money to prepare themselves to make our country self-reliant, safer and more competitive?    Why the War on Students and Grads?

7.    Colleges are doing little to nothing to help grads get jobs.

Since 2008, hiring of grads has plummeted.  The average grad today takes an average of 7.4 months to get a job, losing out on $24,000 on salary.  The associated press shared a survey that showed 53% of grads under 25 were either unemployed or underemployed.  The trends do not look good.  An NACE survey conducted in the fall of 2012 showed employers anticipated hiring 13% more grads in 2013.  Only 6 months later that number was reduced to 2.1%.  So what are colleges doing to help?  Cutting the career center budget!   Why the War on Students and Grads?

8.    Congress is forcing students to begin paying for health benefits.

The new health bill will require everyone to get health insurance. I didn’t even think about health insurance or start paying for it until I was in my 30’s and married.  Today, the healthiest that have the least need for health insurance will have to pay for it or hopefully have a parent that has health insurance and can afford to have them on the policy.  (It’s been reported 40,000,000 people do not have health insurance)  So grads will be required to sign up and pay for a portion of their health benefits with the firms that hire them.    Why the War on Students and Grads?

Do you think there is a “War on Students and Grads”?

Can you help start the discussion about the war our culture, organizations and institutions are waging on our students and grads?  What can we do to bring attention to the continual burdens our policies are placing on students and grads so that we can give them a decent shot at achieving their dreams and living the kind of lives they deserve.

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Don Philabaum
Love to find ways to use technology help more grads and alumni develop successful career strategies.
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum

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