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December 12, 2012 at 11:35 AM

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High unemployment for young people discourages college students

Editor's note: Sandi Halimuddin, a University of Washington student, is contributing to our opinion blog.

University diplomas used to be a symbol of insurance — a hopeful reassurance that upon entering the job market a single piece of paper could vouch for my achievements, validate my existence and hopefully qualify me for real-world opportunities.

My naivete and sense of entitlement has faded with mounting student debt, anxiety about the looming fiscal crisis and the bleak portrait of recent U.S. unemployment rates, particularly among young people.

A recent report released by Generation Opportunity, a national, nonpartisan organization revealed the national unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds in November was 10.9 percent, compared to the overall unemployment rate of 7.7 percent, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

And if the 1.7 million young adults who have stopped looking for jobs were taken into account, unemployment rates would be 16.4 percent, said David Pasch, communications director of Generation Opportunity, which aims to empower young people with information to politically advocate for themselves.

“This is the highest sustained unemployment [for young people] since World War II,” said Pasch. “There are grave implications that reverberate past the financial crisis.”

High unemployment rates will be particularly detrimental to new graduates who already face high personal and student debt with massive tuition increases.

“People go to college with the assumption that an investment in education will result in paying off debt, but people are finding that’s not the case. They’re finding that already set back with college debt, they’re not being able to progress after [graduation],” said University of Washington senior Morgan Currier.

Currier, a history major, is one of many students expressing dissatisfaction with the government, which is moving in the wrong direction.

“The government is investing in wrong things like banks rather than students, and attacking workers, which is not helpful to collective bargaining,” said Currier.

The high unemployment speaks volumes about government priorities or lack thereof. Unemployment among young workers is an issue that transcends youth—it is a national problem that, without proactive government action, threatens our economy and spirit of hope.

When I graduate in a few months, I will walk off the commencement ceremony stage and into the face of the bleak economic reality. While I understand that a university education is not an express pass to successful adulthood, I would like to believe that it is not holding me back, either.

Update 11:40 a.m.

Here is an Associated Press interactive with the latest overall unemployment numbers.

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