A 21st Century Journalism Project

Invisible Struggle

In Defining The Problem on February 29, 2012 at 8:24 pm

By Danielle Robits

Sarah Smith is a 24-year-old woman with Cerebral Palsy from Buffalo, New York, who recently made the decision to go back to school to get her master’s degree in social work.  

She picked social work because, “I wanted to help people help themselves.”  There were two main factors which influenced Smith’s decision to further her education.  She says that, “You either need experience or a masters degree to be able to obtain a job and you need one with the other.”

 Smith does not believe her disability is a hindrance when it comes to searching for jobs.  “ I’m as good if not better than those without a disability.”

Vester Howard, who also has Cerebral Palsy, made the decision not to further his education “for the following reasons: one, I can’t afford it. Two, the state of New Jersey instituted a rule stating disabled students can’t go out-of-state to attend college and since I need help with my personal care, this puts a serious damper on any graduate school plans.”

Howard feels strongly that his disability is a hindrance when it comes to searching for jobs. “I knew after my college career was over, that I couldn’t work a normal 9-to-5 job because I require lots of help with my personal care, and those expenses are too much for one paycheck to cover. Lastly, I enjoy the prospect of being my own boss. That’s why I started a blog.”

Most students enter college with two goals in mind: first, to obtain a degree and second, secure employment.  Unfortunately, getting a diploma can sometimes be easier than finding a job. 

In fact, Students Review (http://studentsreview.com/unemployment_by_major.php3) looked at unemployment by major.  Students majoring in Nutrition have a hard time finding jobs.  Their unemployment rate is 20%.  Also, the unemployment rating for Architecture and Urban Planning is at 18.2%.

Most undergraduate students have dreams of receiving their degrees and moving on with their careers, but sometimes that does not happen.  This past summer the Huffington Post reported that college graduates are moving back home because of massive amounts of debt (Fairbanks, 2011) (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/13college-graduates-moving-home-        debt_n_86184). 

Megan Muller recently graduated from Kean University.  Muller moved back in with her parents because she owes $70,000 in student loans and $10,000 in credit card debt.  The situation was not ideal.  “Trust me; you don’t want to be 26 and still living at home with your parents.”

According to Twentysomething Inc., “85 percent of this year’s graduating class will be forced to move back home.”  A study done by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers found “the median starting salary for students graduating from four-year colleges in 2009 and 2010 to be $27,000-down from $30,000 for those who entered the work force from 2006 to 2008” (Steinberg 2011).

College is supposed to prepare its students for the workforce but sometimes hard work falls short. Due to the lack of available jobs for students in their degree fields, more people are returning to school.  

Although the economy has affected graduating students in many ways, it has also impacted colleges and universities across the country.  Due to class over-crowding, many professors are being forced to change their style of teaching in order to accommodate the larger class sizes (Clark 2010).  This is not benefitting the students because they are receiving less support than they used to.

Because of tuition increases, college has many students deciding to transfer from higher cost schools to more affordable school.  For example, Gannon University charges its students $25,522 to commute, and between $35,022 and $38,152 to live on campus (http://www.gannon.edu/Financial-Aid/Tuition-and-Fees/ ).

Alternatively, Edinboro University charges Pennsylvania residents $8,359.80 to commute, and $16,427.80 to live on campus (http://www.edinboro.edu/departments/admissions/tuition__fees.dot).  For commuters, this is a difference of $17,162.20, while for students living on campus it is a difference of 18,594.20 and $21,724.20. 

 These prices are based on whether a person decides to go to a private or public university.

Due to the unfortunate rise in tuition, college graduates’ student debts keep increasing which may lead them to feel as if they are stuck in quicksand. If the graduates are unable to find a job, they would not be able to pay off the debt they have accumulated on time, which inevitably would create more debt.

This cycle continues if the graduates go back to school if they cannot find a job in their current field.This is the sad truth for most college students. They either have to find a job after graduation, go back to school to further their education, or move back in with their parents to save money and pay off college debts.

Hopefully this economy will turn around soon so that students won’t feel like they went to college for nothing. Because, if not, the cycle of going to college, accumulating debt, and being unable to find a job will continue.


Fairbanks, A. (2011, May). 2011 College grads moving home in record numbers, saddled with      historic levels of student loan debt.  Retrieved from:     http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/13college-graduates-moving-home-            debt_n_86184

Studentreviews. (n.d.) Rate of unemployment by major. Retrieved from:              http://studentsreview.com/unemployment_by_major.php3

Steinberg, J. (2011, May). Job prospects uncertain for new college graduates.  Retrieved from:              http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/job-prospects/


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