Summer job market just the last straw -

Summer job market just the last straw

Students have plenty of reasons to be angry and frustrated


The Toronto Sun ran an article yesterday on the really bad summer employment situation for students. Of course I touched on this topic here already, but the Toronto Sun does add a new note of hysteria to the situation. It presents students as very angry and frustrated. And it connects the problem with the cost of education.

Lack of summer jobs, rise in already lofty tuition fees forcing university students to sink deeper into debt.

First, an observation. I don’t consider the Toronto Sun to be trend-setting media by any stretch but their politics are well established. When the Sun starts reporting on high tuition and debt burden among students as problems then it’s time to pay attention. These are not their usual political sympathies.

The situation with the summer job market for students, however, is a slender hook for this story. It’s well understood that this summer was a very bad time for a variety of reasons and this sort of perfect storm won’t soon be repeated. So the real story isn’t that students are heading into the new academic year down however much money they might have saved over the summer. A few thousand dollars more or less, when compared with total educational debt, just isn’t a big deal anymore. The story is the situation in general.

Students are frustrated with the cost of education and their future job prospects because they’ve been fed a load of crap and they know it. Increases in the cost of education are continually justified with reference to future income potential but the job market for your typical bachelor degree simply is not what it once was. More than that, it’s flatly irrational to suggest that the competing trend – to send more and more people through post-secondary education – won’t have an effect on the marketability of the resulting credentials. Downward pressure on the job market is very well understood at this point. But you’d think educational institutions and their promoters have never heard of the concept.

Your average post-secondary student probably isn’t thinking about these things in quite the same terms. But students are aware of their personal situations. They were promised an awful lot when they signed up for university or for college. It was supposed to be the “right” thing to do. And now, partway through, they find they can’t even score summer jobs spinning cotton candy at the Exhibition. It rather does tend to bring all the other frustrations and doubts to the surface.

This is a big topic all around. It touches on a lot of what’s fundamentally wrong with how we market and present post-secondary education and with deeply held political illusions on the topic. The summer job market, this year, is just a lightning rod for the frustrations that students feel. Unemployment is scary and frustrating. And for some, unavoidably, it’s just a dress rehearsal for the real scare they’ll face upon graduation.

Questions are welcome at Even the ones I don’t post will still receive answers, and where I do use them here I’ll remove identifying information.


Summer job market just the last straw

  1. One thing I’m always curious about in terms of student debt is how private loans and lines of credit from banks factor into the student debt equation, if at all. Most of my friends and I weren’t eligible for enough OSAP to fund our entire undergraduate degree (I was offered $1800 per year, for example), so we took out lines of credit from banks, on which our parents co-signed.

    For us, there are no bursaries and we begin paying the interest as soon as the first dollar is withdrawn. If I hadn’t been able to find jobs those three summers, I would have fallen behind on my interest payments and that would have prevented me from renewing the line of credit the following September.

    Debt is angering and frustrating in general, but it’s even more frustrating when it’s for nothing. I wonder how many students have fallen through the cracks in that situation?

  2. Education and oil: the only two things that you pay high prices for now for future expectations.

  3. The students of today have a sense of entitlement. I believe that the best thing about our economic slowdown over the last years has brought reality to many of our young kids.
    I have talked to many HR people and they are appauled at the amount of people out of university etc who’s first question is how much, second holidays etc.
    I hate to sound like an old fart but I will. A little hard work and earning your way is not a such a bad thing. A little hardship never hurt anyone.
    Unfortunately in our drive to help our children as aprents we have shielded them from reality and it is about time they face it.

  4. Started U of M Sep. 1939 Graduated engineering Jun.1949.
    (4 yrs RCAF, mostly overseas, used up 4 yrs midttime)).

    Summer jobs: CPR track maintenance gang.Very little english spoken.
    Slept in upper bunk in a converted boxcar, usually miles from town.

    CNR signals gang, very similar to above, different provinces.

    Steel fabricating plant, acquired sixty years of tinnitus so far.

    Never borrowed money, Saved what I made in summer to use in winter.

  5. Comments: Students have plenty of reasons to be angry and frustrated about the summer job market.

    Certain sociologists have predicted that this young generation may for all intent and purposes be living at home until they are 35 years old because they will be financially strapped because of present baby bomber attitudes of self entitlement while debasing their children. As we can see with the rise of rampant baby boomer narcissism and their irrelevant comments towards the present generation in comparison to themselves and the past, we are well on the way in impoverishing the present generation and in delaying their entrance in the job market. What the baby boomers have done to this society and left for their children is of no comparison with the one they were left with by their parents of previous generations. I am sick and tired of listening and reading smug comments from this smug generation of baby boomers pretending to have an opinion about today’s situation. These baby boomers would be in the same predicament if they had to relive their lives in today’s job market. Try buying a lifestyle, a car, a house, and bringing up a family, on a Wal-Mart salary or working in a yuppy or not so yuppy restaurant or working on saturdays and sundays at Mall so the past generation can indulges themselves in consumerism on weekends. Why does a modern couple need two salaries today to support the same lifestyle that one salary did in the past? Why isn’t all education free as the old baby boomers ranted about in the ’60’s? When the wind changes how quick we forget or is it true that we should have never trusted a transformed hippy turned yuppy over 30 with a plastic fantastic salary. Maybe, just maybe, some of the baby boomer’s need to do some relating to what actually is going on in today’s economy that they created instead of bragging how good they were or are.

  6. To Rellum & Richard Sara: How I would like to be able to put the hard work in during the summer to earn my tuition and living costs. But jobs that cover the 6k in tuition and books plus another 7-8k in living expenses for the year, as well as your costs in the summer, just don’t exist anymore. Most of us are lucky to get jobs paying just 10-11 an hour. It’s so typical whenever these situations are discussed for older generations to claim that we’re lazy, that we worked hard and so should they, but they fail to see how much more our costs are, and how little we get paid. Averages wages have been stagnant since the 70s, but productivity is up as we have to work more, for less, as inflation pushes up costs.
    Smug boomers enjoy their lifestyles they’ve built up based on a pyramid of cheap youth labour, which if you follow down the line you’ll find environmental catastrophe and exploited labour overseas. We’re going to need all the tips you give us, because our education is the only thing that’s going to help us get out of this mess. And I’m sure you will all think “what a whiner, go to some hard work, pull up your bootstraps”. Actually, we’ve tried, but we’ve been left a world where that’s not really possible, and its the fault of that selfish individualistic “me-first-I’m better-than you” attitude that you think is what “we need”. Our reality is far harsher than one you’ve ever experienced. Guess we’ll have to take the debt and start cleaning up this mess.