Student Opportunity Insights: Rose-Colored Glasses for Near and Recent Grads

Career Readiness
Career Readiness, Opportunity Insights, Research

Article Summary

  • 93% of near and recent grads reported feeling assured they’d land a job related to their educational background within six months of graduating.
  • Student debt in the United States is the highest on record—with near and recent grads carrying an average of $22,919.
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Like you, we’re always on the lookout for the latest data on enhancing instruction and maximizing student outcomes. When it comes to preparing your students for the future, understanding the unique challenges, opportunities and environments they experience in and out of class gives them a strong foundation for success.

That’s why we conducted the first annual Cengage Opportunity Index, a comprehensive study measuring the unique opportunities and challenges that near and recent graduates face today. The result? A lot of interesting insights and discoveries on the current state of opportunity near and recent grads are experiencing—along with some unique outlooks and disconnects that may surprise you.

About the 2019 Cengage Opportunity Index

In partnership with Wakefield Research, the Opportunity Index measures 17 key indicators across four categories: employment, economic, social and personal well-being—using existing data and a survey of 2,500 students and graduates.

Unlike a traditional survey, the Opportunity Index compares existing third-party data with up-to-date survey answers to paint a clear, comprehensive picture of the current environment near and recent graduates experience.

Index Insights: Youthful Optimism or Rose-Colored Glasses?

One of the most interesting insights gleaned from this year’s Opportunity Index is the level of optimism respondents had about their professional prospects, student debt burden and overall outlook compared to the environment the data reflects. Whether it’s youthful hopefulness or misplaced confidence, 93% of near and recent graduates reported feeling assured they’d land a job related to their educational background within six months of graduating. The reality? Only about 60% will.

What may be even more surprising; when asked how long respondents estimated it would take them to pay back their student debt, the average response was just six years. Considering student debt in the United States is the highest on record—with near and recent grads carrying an average of $22,919—the actual time it takes graduates to pay off their debt is closer to 20 years.

When it comes to salaries, expectations are equally high. On average 67% of respondents predicted they’d meet their salary expectations within the next year—and reported a willingness to move across the country in order to get it. Of the three-quarters of respondents planning to move to another state within the next year, seeking better pay was the primary motivation.

While Debt and Salary May Be an Uphill Battle, Students Are Optimistic  

If you’re feeling like your students are in for a shock, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Over the past four years, the U.S. economy has consistently shown improvement—with household income and GDP steadily increasing. With 70% of respondents satisfied with their love lives and 71% satisfied with their mental health, 82% of near and recent grads are optimistic about their futures—with 61% confident their quality of life will be better than that of their parents.

Want More In-Depth Insights into Student Opportunity?

For more facts and figures from the 2019 Opportunity Index, download our FREE ebook. In it, we describe in detail the facts that matter to you and your students and explore how you can help optimize instruction and empower their success.