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Opinion
Richard K Vedder

Congrats on That Diploma. You May Not Need It.

College graduation season is in full bloom, and this year American institutions will confer about 1.8 million bachelor's degrees.
Welcome to your uncertain future. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg
Welcome to your uncertain future. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

College graduation season is in full bloom, and this year American institutions will confer about 1.8 million bachelor's degrees. As in the past, many of the best and brightest have, or will land, jobs requiring knowledge, skills and critical thinking -- and will be paid good salaries. But increasingly, today’s college graduates face an uncertain future, and many will end up taking jobs historically done by those with high school diplomas or even less -- construction workers, taxi drivers, restaurant wait staff, janitors. More than 1 million college graduates are retail salespeople -- about twice the number of active-duty U.S. Army personnel.

Is this largely a temporary phenomenon, a function of sluggish job growth in recent years? The financial crisis, the recession and mediocre recent economic growth have certainly aggravated things. But this is a long-term problem: There are simply more college graduates than jobs requiring college degrees.