For most recent college graduates, these are gloomy times. Only about half are working full-time, with the majority starting with less pay than expected while also dealing with huge student debts. Nearly six in 10 think they'll end up less financially successful than their elders.
It's a pessimistic outlook from the subjects of a study from Rutgers University, which this spring surveyed hundreds of people who graduated between 2006 and 2011. About 12% are under- or unemployed (many of the rest are volunteers, in the military or still in school).
Workers who graduated during the recession – from 2009 through last year – earned a median starting salary of $27,000 – or $3,000 less annually than earlier graduates. Nearly a quarter of all respondents said their current job pays much less than they'd anticipated.
Female graduates earned $2,000 less than their male counterparts.
Most fresh college grads said their first jobs didn't help them advance along a career path – and that the positions didn't even require a four-year degree. Four in 10 said they took the work just to get by.
Even to get current jobs, a quarter of recent grads said they've had to look below their education level and outside their professional fields. Many have also had to accept less-than-optimal hours and go without health benefits.
Many are still struggling. Among recession-era graduates, the majority get some kind of financial help from their family. A third live at home or get help for housing costs; a quarter rely on family to pitch in for food and healthcare costs.
Student-loan debts – which in 2010 totaled $1 trillion, or more than the amount Americans owed in credit debt – don't help. A quarter of all the recent graduates haven't made any progress in paying off what they owe; four in 10 recession-era graduates are in the same boat.
The pressures of education loans have caused 40% of graduates since 2006 to delay major purchases such as a home or a car. The burden has caused nearly 30% to put off more education. Marriage or committed relationships are currently out of the cards for 14% of debtors.