Confidence in college as good investment drops 33% since recession

Colleges and universities continue to have to prove their worth as young adults experience a post-graduate failure to launch, according to the latest COUNTRY Financial Security Index survey.

Just 48% of Americans say college is still a good financial investment, declining for the sixth consecutive year, from 81% in 2008. Perhaps the post-grad job difficulties are to blame.

A Tougher Job Market

A majority of Americans (78%) say it's harder for today's college graduates to find employment that allows for financial independence than past generations. This could be attributed to a "skills gap" as Americans are more likely to say finding a job comparable to their skills, or not having the skills to match what employers need, are the biggest obstacles for today's college graduates (44%).

Great Expectations

Despite a tough job market, a majority of Americans (54%) only anticipate it to take six months or less for a graduate to find a job after college. Another 58% say if they were a new graduate, they would rather take a lower paying job right away than wait to find a position that matches their skills.

But, college students and recent graduates (ages 18"29) beg to differ. This group is the least likely of any age group (49%) to expect it to take six months or less to find a job and the most likely (31%) to say they'll wait for a position that matches their skills.

Starting Salaries

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average annual starting salary for a 2014 college graduate is just over $45,000. A majority of Americans, however, say this is more than grads need. Fifty-nine percent say $40,000 or less is the minimum annual income a recent college grad needs to make in order to be financially independent.

'Still Worth It'

"Despite Americans' pessimism when it comes to college and post-graduate prospects, it's important to take a step back to find perspective," says Joe Buhrmann, manager of Financial Security Support at COUNTRY Financial. "While the perception of the value of higher education may be declining because of rising costs, a college education is still worth it. Over a lifetime, a graduate can earn nearly $1 million more than a non-grad, and the annualized return on investment for the money put into a college degree is about 15%," that according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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