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College grads: Not quite adults
Graduates pose for photographs during commencement at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

College grads: Not quite adults

When recent college graduates fail to launch, who’s to blame?

The individual, to be sure. But according to a new book, “Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates,” their universities are also at fault.

For the book, authors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa followed more than 900 individuals for two years after college graduation “to document their successes and failures.” They looked at social outcomes, such as living arrangements, in addition to economic outcomes like employment status.

They concluded that too many grads are failing to successfully transition into adulthood, and furthermore, that their alma maters did a poor job of preparing them for the realities of post-campus life.

Arum and Roksa argue that colleges should design more rigorous curricula and raise academic standards, rather than erect flashy new football stadiums. They assert that colleges overemphasize social amenities, which appeal to their 17-year-old target consumers, at the expense of academics.

And, they say, student-support departments have become so bloated that colleges end up babying their students, who are then ill-prepared to handle the everyday stresses of adulthood or understand the civic roles they’re expected to play.

Here are some findings from the book:

  • About one-third of graduates surveyed said they read newspapers daily. About the same number of grads said they never did so, or only did so once a month.
  • Only 16 percent said they discussed politics or public affairs with a family member or friend daily
  • 74 percent received ongoing financial help from their parents
  • Nearly 25 percent still lived at home two years after graduation

While some of those stats are certainly alarming (go newspapers!), I wonder whether graduates today are struggling significantly more than their parents did. Maybe a somewhat-painful transition is just part of growing up.

Some (surely mutant) graduates gracefully soar into the real world immediately after their commencement ceremony. Others fall flat on their face, right down their parents’ basement staircase.

But most simply stumble, maybe rather clumsily, into adulthood. Hasn’t it always been like that? Or is it getting worse, and why? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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