The financial reality for the average college student in America is already pretty bleak: According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of college is now $35,551 per year – up to $54,000 if you’re looking at a private university. Tuition seems to trend in only one direction (up), and the average American borrower now owes $37,000 in student debt.
But if you ask college seniors preparing to graduate with their hard-earned, not-yet-paid-for college degree, their future financial outlook is even bleaker still.
According to a new survey of college seniors in the U.S., an overwhelming majority (84%) hadn’t secured a post-graduation job at the time of the survey in January. Just 40% planned to start their first job upon commencement.
Further, more than half (54%) are worried about affording rent and utilities once they enter the workforce.
FLEXIBILITY IS A TOP PRIORITY
Quality Logo Products surveyed more than 900 current college seniors early this year about their plans for after graduation, career expectations, and how they feel about entering the workforce in the economy of 2023.
Besides the striking lack of confidence in their economic outlook after leaving college, the survey found that the students value flexibility and mobility while also harboring some expectations that will likely face a workplace reality check.
Not surprising, college seniors favor flexible work schedules above almost everything else. When asked which work benefits were most important in their first jobs, 68% of them ranked flexible hours the highest. Nearly a third hoped to work remotely at least 25% of the time.
They also ranked work-life balance benefits such as unlimited paid time off (27%) and a four-day work week (26%) high on their list of priorities.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to work. Some 59% want to work the traditional 40-hour work week (so long as they can decide where to put in the hours), and 56% expect to work on at least some weekends.
CLASS OF 2023 PLANS TO MOVE AROUND
If you’ve followed Tik Tok trends like quiet quitting, C’s get degrees, and now rage applying, you already know that Gen Z isn’t about to put up with toxic workplaces. This latest survey just quantifies the point.
Sure, Class of 2023 graduates say they are willing to switch jobs for better opportunities. But, they’ll also jump ship if they don’t like the work environment. Just 12% of survey respondents think that they’ll still be at their first job in five years while 79% expect to leave within one to three years. Some 37% of female respondents said that being happy at work is a priority while just 29% of male respondents said so.
Meanwhile, most graduating seniors (69%) are not or are just somewhat confident about their preparedness for their first job. This is especially pronounced for students entering healthcare, computer and mathematical fields, and data processing where just 29% say they are very confident in their degree.
Similarly, 35% of seniors think it will take three months or more to get a job, and 69% plan to travel or take a break before jumping into the workforce.
EXPECTATIONS VS. REALITY
While Gen Zers might be feeling pessimistic about job prospects after graduating, they still have high expectations. According to the survey, however, those expectations don’t always align with reality.
For example, 43% of survey respondents expected to make at least $60,000 coming out of college. But the national average starting salary for college graduates is about $42,000.
And, while 33% of respondents expected to work remotely at least some of the time, 85% of employers will likely not allow remote work.
Finally, a full 70% of graduating seniors expect to enjoy their first job out of college. But, just 20% of Americans report being passionate about their daily jobs. That lesson, it appears, has to be learned through experience.
See the full survey report here.
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