April 18, 2010

Cornell Class of 2009 Grads Find Fewer Jobs, Earn Less Than In Previous Years

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Only half of Cornell’s class of 2009 found employment within six months of graduation, according to a survey recently released by Cornell Career Services, The employment rate is down 5.2 percent from the survey’s estimates for the class of 2008 and down 6.3 percent from the class of 2007.  Worst hit by the job market were the Hotel School, the College of Engineering and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, each of which suffered an 8-percent decline in employed graduates. Regardless of the falling employment figures, hotel students still fared relatively well, with 83 percent finding employment last year — a full 24 percent more than the second highest college.

Architecture, Art and Planning was the only college to buck the trend, with 4 percent more of their class of 2009 graduates hired than those in the year before, according to the survey.

The survey also measured the mean starting salary and median income for Cornell graduates. Though five of the seven colleges saw a 2.1-percent decline in expected mean starting salary, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Human Ecology remained unchanged from last year. The median income dropped a full 8 percent, below $50,000 and thus below the cost of attendance for the University’s private colleges.“It’s hard to know why [the figures have dropped off],” said Rebecca Sparrow, director of Cornell’s Career Services Department, but said that the rough economy was the most obvious factor.  She speculated that the colleges of Arts and Sciences and Human Ecology had weathered the storm better because of a “broader diversity of sectors.” Sparrow also said that those schools have “more people already in the non-profit sector,” which was “not hit as hard as [the] profit sectors.”The drop in employment figures coincides with a 2.3-percent rise in students that opted for graduate school, including a 20-percent rise among Hotel students. But Sparrow said that the number of students going to graduate school was ultimately lower than expected.  She said that Career Services “thought students would be going [to grad school] in droves,” but that this “doesn’t seem to be the case.”Absorbing a greater proportion of students unable to find employment was what the survey calls “other endeavors,” which includes “graduate school admission or employment, volunteering, and travel, among other activities.” Out of the 3 percent more students pursuing “other endeavors,” Sparrow estimated that only two-thirds of the rise was due to increased unemployment.She added that the 16 percent of students neither employed nor in graduate school were those in AmeriCorps, those at temporary jobs and those mandated to serve in the armed forces abroad. The results of Cornell’s survey were mirrored elsewhere, as many colleges reported similar declines in their postgraduate reports.  The University of Pennsylvania’s Class of 2009 saw a 5-percent drop in both expected starting salary and percentage of students employed. Georgetown University and the University of Chicago also saw 5-percent fall-offs from last year, with Georgetown recording a 7-percent decline in expected starting salary.   Sparrow cautioned, however, that comparing expected income across universities is not always entirely accurate, as the schools may conduct their surveys in different ways and at different times. She also said that comparing figures between the University’s colleges may be problematic, as some colleges conduct their surveys differently. Sparrow said that the College of Human Ecology, for instance, might have lower graduate employment numbers because they give out their surveys immediately after graduation, when many students do not know their plans.Among other statistics, the survey also indicated a move towards the public sector, with more than a quarter of the Class of 2009 choosing this route — an increase of 6 percent from the year before.

Original Author: Jeff Stein