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Study Gives Snapshot of Work and Debt of New College Grads

A snapshot of recent college graduates shows the vast majority are employed, which is a good thing since two-thirds are in debt with average loans totaling nearly $25,000.

This information comes from the 2008-09 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study: A First Look at Recent College Graduates from the National Center for Education Statistics.

When interviewed about a year after completing their degree requirements, 84 percent of 2007-08 first-time bachelor's degree recipients were working. Nine percent were unemployed, but looking for work, and 7 percent were not in the labor force. This compares to 87 percent of 1999-2000 grads who were employed in 2001, according to a previous NCES survey.

The median income of graduates one year after college in the new survey was $36,000. In 2001, it was $29,800.

Some 66 percent of 2007-08 first-time bachelor's degree recipients borrowed to finance their degrees—on average $24,700. This is an increase from 2001, when 62 percent of students were in debt with the average amount borrowed $17,800.

The most popular fields of study, according to the new survey, were business-related fields (23 percent); science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (16 percent); social science (16 percent); and humanities (12 percent).

As for the amount of time it took to complete a degree, 44 percent of 2007-08 first-time bachelor's degree recipients completed their degree within four years of enrolling, 23 percent finished in four to five years, and 9 percent finished in five to six years.

This is a promising trend when compared to 2001, when 39 percent had completed college within four years of high school graduation, 24 percent took four to five years, 10 percent had finished in five to six years, and 12 percent took six to 10 years to complete a bachelor's degree.

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