Generation X graduate can’t find a job and has $100,000 in student debt

Generation X graduate can’t find a job and has 0,000 in student debt
Generation X graduate can’t find a job and has 0,000 in student debt

46-year-old Kenneth Ferraro says that his later studies did not help him much in the job market.
Kenneth Ferraro

  • A Generation Xer in Texas went to college in his 40s because he was unhappy with his job as a truck driver.
  • He said a college education did not help him find a job and that he is now over $100,000 in debt.
  • It has become more difficult for university graduates to find a job in recent years.

In 2018, at the age of 40, Kenneth Ferraro decided to pursue a college degree for the first time. It didn’t go according to plan.

Ferraro, who lives in Texas, had worked as a truck driver for decades, he told Business Insider via email. Although the job offered a steady income, he said he had long wanted a different career — and he thought going back to school was the best way to fulfill that desire.

“I was traveling all over the country, working long hours and getting more than a little burned out,” he said. “It wasn’t the career I chose, but like many others, I stumbled upon it by accident. Going to college after high school wasn’t financially possible.”

Ferraro began his studies by studying part-time at a local community college, but he said he enjoyed the experience so much that he quit his job as a truck driver to focus on school. After completing his associate degree, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from New York University.

“I knew it would ruin me financially, but I was convinced that the prestigious degree would improve my employment opportunities after graduation,” he said.

But despite applying for countless jobs over the past few years, Ferraro has had little luck. He said the only job he was able to land was as a delivery driver for a major beverage company – and he has more than $100,000 in student loan debt.

“After all my hard work and sacrifices, the only thing I was able to secure was a job that I have done my entire life,” he said. “My education and commitment to better myself cost me a lot financially and emotionally.”

The unemployment rate for men in the U.S. is low compared to decades past, but Ferraro is among the men who are struggling to find work or have given up looking altogether. In 1950, about 97 percent of American men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job or were actively looking for one, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In June, that number had dropped to about 89 percent.

One explanation for this trend is that in recent decades it has become difficult for some men to get a well-paying job without a college degree – a development that has led some men to leave the labor market. These challenges still exist for men today, although more and more companies have started to hire applicants without a degree.

The perceived benefits of a college degree have led more Americans to return to school later in life. About 34% of college students and 44% of community college students are age 25 or older, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

But as Ferraro and many college graduates can attest, a degree does not guarantee success in the job market. Last November, the unemployment rate among U.S. college graduates ages 22 to 27 was 5%, compared to the overall U.S. unemployment rate of 3.7%. That was the highest unemployment rate among “college graduates.” The interest rate has been higher than the overall interest rate over the three decades of New York Fed data. When you factor in the cost of college, college may not be worth it for some people.

Ferraro spoke about the biggest challenges in finding a job and explained why he believes his college degree was sometimes his downfall.

As an older college graduate, it may be harder to get certain types of jobs

Ferraro always knew that starting out in the profession would be difficult. At age 42, he was happy to spend six months interning for a local congressman.

However, Ferraro’s efforts to find a full-time job in public service frustrated him. Although his college degree enhanced his qualifications, he believes his age held him back in the job market.

Ferraro recalls applying for an entry-level position in a government official’s office, a role he thought would be the “perfect” job to launch his new career.

The early stages of the interview process seemed promising, but when he had a face-to-face interview, everything changed, he says.

“As soon as the hiring manager saw me, his whole demeanor changed,” Ferraro said. “He went through the questions and never really addressed me.”

A few weeks later, Ferraro learned that he was no longer being considered for the position. The only explanation that made sense to him was that the hiring manager wasn’t interested in candidates his age.

“A man in his 40s who on paper is the perfect candidate, willing to work, learn and dedicate himself to any task, is still a man in his 40s,” he said. “That’s why he’s not a suitable candidate.”

Ferraro needed an income and after searching in vain for a job in his field of study, he decided, with a heavy heart, to expand his search to the truck driving jobs he wanted to escape.

But despite his decades of experience, Ferraro was having trouble getting an interview for a job as a driver – a development that baffled him. But then an idea struck him: What if he left his college education off his resume when applying?

“I didn’t start getting interviews until I removed the education section from my application,” he said. “My degree was holding me back.”

Despite Ferraro’s challenges, truck drivers have generally been in high demand in recent years, thanks in part to the pandemic-led e-commerce boom. But as the online shopping trend has normalized, some drivers have found it harder to find work.

Ferraro eventually landed a job similar to the one he had before starting his apprenticeship in 2018, but he said he now earns about 20% less per hour than he used to. He said his employer places more value on experience within the company than experience in the transportation industry as a whole.

Currently, Ferraro regrets going to college, but he still hopes that his education will eventually help him get an entry-level position in government.

After working as a driver during the day, he attends graduate school in the evenings. He is working on his master’s degree in public administration and continues his to apply for jobs.

“This situation is very frustrating,” he said. “It feels like I’m putting in so much effort without getting anything in return.”

Have you given up looking for work or are you having trouble finding a job? Did you go back to college later in life? If so, contact this reporter at [email protected].

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