The Worst Year To Graduate From College

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worst year to graduateCongratulations Class of 2013! And condolences. You are joining the elite brigade of recession-era graduates, with wages that researchers say will be depressed for years to come!

For this luckless group, AOL Jobs thought it would offer a silver lining. At least you maybe weren't the worst of the worst. Check out the chart to see how each class since 2007 has fared, and browse below to see how miserable the real world was that greeted the last six years of shiny diplomas. Schadenfreude may not pay the rent, but it can give you the boost of energy you need to send off that 200th job application.

Then click on the slideshow below to revel in who had it worse than you.



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The Worst Year To Graduate From College

May 2007, what an innocent time. President George W. Bush appeared on American Idol. The first person ever was Rickrolled. The Plain White T's were blowing up the charts. "It's a great time to be graduating from college," proclaimed the president of job site CollegeGrad.com told the Buffalo News.

And indeed it was. The recession didn't officially begin until December 2007, so the class that nabbed their diplomas earlier that year enjoyed a sunny first stroll in the real world. "We're seeing students getting multiple offers, and the salaries are continuing to rise," Gillian Steele, the managing director of DePaul University's Career Center, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

But these men and women, who are now nearing 30, have also spent their entire working lives during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Unlucky ones, as the youngest at their companies, were laid-off when things turned sour. And the more fortunate ones still had far less freedom to change jobs, career paths, or ask for a raise -- for six whole years and counting.

The Great Recession was only a whisper in the wind in May, 2008. A couple months before, Bear Stearns was acquired by JPMorgan for $2 a share, but the extent of the damage wasn't yet clear. One of the career advisers at Rice University told The Houston Chronicle that while she usually fielded frantic calls from parents when graduation drew near, this time "these frazzled guardians are calling with a new concern: the economy."

Most agreed that recruitment was down, but few were preaching doomsday. As Troy Behrens, executive director of Southern Methodist University's Hegi Family Career Development Center told Colorado Springs Gazette, "companies are not cutting back on their new hires because they tend to be less expensive."

As the second class to graduate into this mess, there was no more parsing of words. "Each class piles up against the ones before it," one 24-year-old wailed to Reuters. "I know people who are looking for jobs, and have been since they graduated. There's this sense of 'No hope.'"

But for finance majors, who'd had a taste of pain before everyone else, a "blessing in disguise" meme emerged. "A finance major who was minoring in music was suddenly looking into opening a jazz club," a senior at the Wharton School of Business told The New York Times. "All of a sudden, I saw that a lot of Wharton people were interesting."

Applications to grad school, Americorps, and Teach for America ticked up.

Articles announced a rosier job market for 2010 grads, but that wasn't entirely true. Yes, more companies were planning on hiring new grads than the grim days of 2009, but unemployment for recent grads actually rose, and after several years of a depressed economy, wages were seriously down. As loan debt burdens jumped at the same time, a new meme landed on the scene: Is college even worth it?

Of course, college -- if you're including technical colleges, and two-year degrees -- is always worth it. Should every single person in American get a four-year liberal arts degree? No. Nobody ever said that. But thanks for reminding the class of 2010 right when they graduate, guys.

Yup, we were still in a recession. At first it was just casual curiosity, but now the weight of science threw itself behind the question: IS COLLEGE WORTH IT?

Once again, the answer was yes, yes, definitely yes. Eighty-eight percent of college grads interviewed by Pew Research Center said that college was a good investment for them, and they were earning on average $20,000 more as a result. When Stephen Levitt of "Freakonomics" fame was posed the question, he belly-laughed ("Of all the topics economists have studied, I would say one we are most certain about are the returns to education.").

But that didn't allay the misery of a class graduating with record levels of debt, a still dizzying new grad jobless rate, and starting salaries that crept lower each year. By this point, kids didn't even pretend they weren't going to spend the next year shacking up with their parents.

The job market greeting the Class of 2012 was definitely friendlier. New grad joblessness was way down, but still significantly above what it was in 2008, and wages had only plummeted further. And of course, the new graduates weren't just competing against their classmates, but also a four-year backlog of college grads who'd been tending bar and biding their time.

The "College Grads Face Horrific Job Market, Eat Mac n' Cheese In Bed" stories had become so tiresome at this point, media outlets had to get more creative. "34 Depressing Facts About The Job Market For College Grads" anyone?
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