If you happen to be a member of the class of 2009, I've got some important advice for you. Don't graduate...at least, not this year.
Via Matt Yglesias' blog I came across some truly horrifying pieces of information for anyone who was thinking of finishing school in 2009.
Apparently, numerous studies by economists have shown that students who graduate from college or grad school during a recession will take a hit to their income for the next ten years.
In other words, entering the workforce during a recession doesn't just hurt your ability to make money in the near-term. It has negative long-term effects on your career and earnings power that could last for the rest of your life.
If you want to read more about why and how this is, I'd check out this article that Yglesias cites written by Austan Goolsbee, economic advisor to the President-elect, back in 2006 when we weren't in the midst of the worst economic climate since the depression.
I'm less concerned with why, and more worried about helping you get around this fact of life with the least possible effort. If graduating from college and finishing grad school will put a dent in your income for the next decade, it seems to me the easiest way around this is to take a year off from school and graduate in 2010, when we'll hopefully be in a better situation.
Since the deck is stacked against anyone who tries to start working during a recession, the easiest thing to do is wait.
Maybe you think you don't have the money to take a year off from school and support yourself with a low-paying job in the interim. But think about the long-term costs of finishing school in 2009: You'll be earning less money than your peers who graduated when the economy was in better shape for ages, and all because of a quirk of fate! You might have to spend a year flipping burgers, but when you do graduate a year late, you won't have to spend the next ten-years playing catch-up with your paycheck.
There's no helping the class of 2008, but the class of 2009 can still be saved.
Now is a great time to go backpacking around Europe to shore up your bourgeois credentials. It's a great time for a little stint in the French Foreign Legion, where you can pick up another language and some great stories. But according to the experts, it's a terrible time to graduate from college.
On a related note, I have never felt better about belonging to the illustrious class of '07.
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