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Despite Weak Economy, UI Grads Still Netting Jobs

A majority of young adults think they will be worse off than their parents, according to a recent report dubbed "the State of Young America."

But even more believe the American Dream is achievable for their generation.

And at the University of Iowa, graduates from the College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are finding jobs despite the economic downturn. According to a placement summary conducted by the Pomerantz Career Center on campus, 61 percent of students who graduated between August 2009 and May 2010 were employed permanently within six months of their graduation.

"[UI] students know they are going to have to work hard," said Angi McKie, the director of marketing and public relations for the Pomerantz Career Center. "But also they know there are a lot of opportunities."

Focusing on five major areas—jobs and economy, higher education, raising a family, cost of living, and health care and coverage—the State of Young America report examined economic challenges and the outlook for Americans ages 18 to 34 and the effect on the U.S. middle class.

According to the study, tuition rates have tripled in cost since 1980 and two out of three students graduate with student loan debt, averaging $24,000.

The U.S. student default rate also increased 31 percent in a little more than two years, according to the report.

"In order to sustain and diversify our middle class," said Tamara Draut, vice president of policy and programs for Demos, a policy center based in New York that helped conduct the study, "we are going to have to address the very real challenges that young people face, because right now we have joblessness, but we also have a severe decline in job quality."

And even as the percentage of young adults with jobs has reached an all time low, officials who assisted with the report said the population remains optimistic.

"I think that there is an acknowledgment that financially, it's just very difficult out there, and maybe the American dream isn't just earning more and making more," said Christine Matthews, the president of Bellwether Research and Consulting during a conference call Wednesday. "It's in some ways living a more balanced life doing things in a different way."

But UI economics Associate Professor Martin Gervais said he doubts on average whether the current generation will be worse off than the previous generation.

"[The younger generation] will have to work less," he said. "It's a complicated argument; if income doubles, you have to work half as much to make as much as your parents."

Gervais said the United States has an average annual income growth of 2 percent, which allows individual income levels to double every 35 years.

"Surely, economic growth is not going to disappear," Gervais said, noting that growth might slow at times. "I will expect that to be correct over the next 100 years."

And McKie said university programs are also working to prepare students for the future.

From 2009 to 2010, 9,000 UI students participated in career-related workshops and programs by center, according to the Career Center's annual report.

Each year, the center aims to help students and alumni by providing resources such as career fairs, but in past years, the fairs have seen a decline in employer participation.

However, this fall's fair had a waiting list with roughly 135 attending—up from around 120 last fall—which McKie said is a good sign for the economy.

Nonetheless, officials said an opportunistic outlook is unique to young people.

"Obviously, there are huge challenges that have to happen, and we have to find the political will to address those," said Aaron Smith, a co-founder and executive director of Young Invincibles, the other group to work on the study. "But that sort of belief that things can change is what keeps young people optimistic and keeps them believing in the American dream."


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