It took Carlos Phears of the Maryland State Employment Service here only one sentence to capsulize the national problem confronting thousands of young Americans and their parents:
"College graduates without a specialized area by and large can be classified as unskilled laborers." His statement was based on three years of trying to place graduates in jobs.
Finding jobs for history and English majors, for example, has become as difficult as finding jobs for clerk typists who can only type 20 words a minute, he said.
One painful result of this new tren, Phears and other employment officials said in a series of interviews, is that thousands of college graduates must take jobs they do not want if they want to work at all.
Often, this means working down - taking a job which traditionally has not required a college degree. College graduates, in competing for non-college jobs, are pushing people without a degree further down the employment ladder.
Latest studies by the federal government's Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the mismatch of education and jobs will get worse before it gets better.
This year, in the study covering the 1974-through-1985 period, the bureau estimated there would be 950,000 more college graduates than jobs that have traditionally required degrees.
A followup study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to be released soon is even bleaker. It will report, if the preliminary estimates hold true, that there will be a surplus of more than 1 million college graduates between now and 1985.
In contrast, BLS reported in 1968 that in the 1966 to 1975 period there would be a shortage of college graduates - predicting 5.4 million graduates for 6.2 million jobs.
The Vietnam war, which pushed a lot of men into college to escape the draft and depressed national economy, was a big reason for the switch from shortage to surplus, according to government employment specialists.
Since Vietnam, young peopld are going to college for the primary purpose of getting a better job, according to a survey of 215,890 freshmen entering 393 colleges and universities in 1976. The survey, entitled "The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 1976," was done by Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California.
Under "reasons noted as very important in deciding to go to college." 71.7 per cent of the freshmen in the sample losted "able to get a better job." This was the reason most often checked. Next was "learn more about things." and third was "able to make more money."
Under "objectives considered to be essential or very important." the highest percentage of freshmen, 71.8 per cent, marked "help others indifficulty." The second objective most often marked was "be an authority in my field."
One painful impact of this graduate surplus both today and tomorrow is thousands of college graduates taking jobs they do not want if they to work at all.
This is especially true for liberal arts majors as well as for those who majored in such crowded fields as accounting but have no work experience.
Allan Ostar, executive director of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said:
"Corporate presidents go around making lovely speeches written by IvyLeaguers about the value of a liberal arts education, but somehow don't communicate these views to their personnel departments doing the hiring."
What the surplus of college graduates will mean, said the BLS in its 1977 "Occupational Outlook" report is "under-employment and job dissatisfaction" for many college graduates rather than no jobs at all.
Caria Powell of Baltimore is a 29-year-old graduate who is among those who considered getting a better job and helping "others in difficulty," to quote the survey questionaire, as reasons for going to college.
Today, she is one of the surplus graduates. She says she feelscheated frustrated and depressed about the whole thing.
She expected a much warmer reception once she entered the job market. In fact, Powell argued that she is owed the opportunity to finish her education and then a job in her field now that she has earned her bachelor of science degree in biology and a master's in education.
"It's drilled into you from day once it's important to get a college education. By your family, by your school, by your peers."
She said her father, a labor foreman in Akron, Ohio and her mother, a cashier in a supermarket, there, kept warning all through her childhood that a black person just has to get a college education to make it."
This kind of pressure, Powell continued makes you worry: "Am I college material? Will society accept me if I don't go to college?"
She said she felt blessed when she got her bachelor's degree from St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, NC.. in 1970, her master's from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. 1971; and a federally sponsored job as teacher in Washington's northeast section as a member of the Urban Teachers Corps until 1972, when she started on her doctorate at Catholic University.
Until this past January, each advance was gently arranged for her by the equivalent of the "cold boy" network said she was unprepared for the series of rejection she got once she left the system.
Arguing that taking a job as a waitress would not leave her enough energy to finish her course work and dissertation required for the doctorate, Powell said she has been rejected for other part-time jobs either because she is overqualified or inexperienced.
"I can see now how people will just up and take any old job because they can't wait survive long enough to wait for that particular job. Just having to into a corner where you want to scream.
do", Powell continued. "But there's that money thing. Tne need to get it to survive. That's power. Money controls a lot of people; a lot of minds."
She worries about ever being able to work as an "educational technologist" designing and coordinating programs to help junior school black children whom she feels are in desperate straits, even if she does manage to earn her doctorate.
She contends that the federal Government has a duty to help her and other employ the skills they have gained. "The government should be able to take care of the people. They can go to the moon: so they can do it."
Phears said that Powell is typical of have money to survive pushes you hundreds of college graduates who have come to his desk in the second.
"I'm serious about what I want to floor of Maryland's employment office.
"The average college graduate believes that society owes him a a job because he earned his credentials," Phears said. "And I say rightly so."
But the harsh reality. Phears continued is that "there has been a retreat from the social concepts of the 1960s. Most companies feel that there has been sufficient time for disadvantaged persons to do something for themselves" and are no longer inclined to hire an inexperienced person or one with a generalized college education, like a degree in sociology.
As more and more graduates decide that working outside their field is better than not working at all, the Burea of Labor Statistics predicts "a [WORD ILLEGIBLE] over of college graduates into non-traditional fields."
The bureau in this year's report, entitled "Occupational Outlook for College Graduates," states. The proportion of workers with four or more years of college education increased "by more than 60 per cent in clerical service and blue-collar occupationas" between 1970 and 1974 - areas which have traditionally had very small proportions of college graduates.
"In the future," continues the bureau's report, in assessing the impact of college graduates competing with non-college people for jobs ranging from insurance salesman to janitor, "workers without college degrees are expected to have fewer opportunites to advance to professional positions in fields such as engineering and accounting as well as to higher level managerial, sales and service jobs.
"Thus, while college graduates are expected to face competition for jobs, those without a college education are likely to encounter even greater competition for the better jobs.
"On the other hand," the report continues, "in some occupations graduates of four-year colleges are likely to face unprecedented competition from community and junior college graduates" because the latter institutions have demonstrated they can train students" for many occupations in two years or even less" rather than four.
"On the other hand," the report continued, "in some occupations graduates of four-year colleges are likely to face unprecedented competition from community and junior college graduates" because the latter institutions have demonstrated they can train students "for many occupations in two years or even less" rather than four.
The College Placement Council of Bethelem Pa., a non-profit group comprised of college placement counselors and industry executives who recruit on campuses, said in a report early this month that things are looking up for college graduates on the job market, especially in such specialized fields as petroleum engineering.
Offers to bachelor degree holders rose 41 per cent between the 1975-76 and 1976-77 academic years, the council said. But 85 per cent of the increase to graduates with engineering or business degress, with science and humanities majors taking a distant back seat.
Employment specialists like Phears, heads of privately funded placement agencies and Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys fail to support the hope for an early break in the logjam of graduates looking for jobs in such fields as education and accounting.
Richard B. Freeman, economics professor at Harvard, has more bad news for college graduates of the 1970s. His analyses indicate that the economic return on the money spent on college educations is declining.
"Whereas in 1969," Freeman wrote in a recent report, "23 to 34-year-old college men earned $2,408 more than similarly aged high school graduates, in 1974 their advantage was just $1,083, a striking 55 per cent decline."
Freeman predicts that the employment outlook for college graduates will brighten in the 1980s, partly because there will be fewer graduates entering the job market. One reason for this is the declining birth rate after 1960. Still, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is not hopeful abou the future matchup of education and jobs.
Although parents who pay the bills and students who study in fields where jobs are scarce can argue that college is an enriching experience in itself, this is not one universal view.
If a specific return cannot be guaranteed in this period of rising college costs, a high school senior is more likely to opt for a trade if he or she decides his is the surer route to employment.
Spot interviews with a number of young steelworkers and their wives here suggested that this growing uncertainty about college education paying off is turning high school seniors away from college and toward trades.
"I was going to go to college so I could be an art teacher," said Francine Bagent of Dundaik, a bedroom community near the Bethlehem Steel Corp, complex at Sparrows point. But before taking the expensive leap, Bagent said she talked to a number of high school art teachers about the chances of getting a teaching job after graduation.
"They told me I probably couldn't get a job," said Bagent, "so I went to hairdressing school." Now she is going to barber school so she can make more money.
Bagent talked about jobs while watching a softball game between two union locals, the electricians at Bethlehem's pipe mill and the workers who run the railroad at the plant. Her husband, Vincent, is a machinist apprentice at Bethlehem - as well as his local's right fielder.
If the Bagents have a son, she was asked, would she rather have him go to college or get a tade? A trade," she answered without hesitation.
Similarly, Larry Sears, a 24-year-old electrical worker at Bethlehem, scoffed during a separate interview at the value of a college education.
"I didn't do my brother-in-law anygood," Sears said. "He was a history major" who ended up serving chicken at Gino's.
Also, continued Sears, his wife - "And she's no dummy: she went through college on the dean's list" - is an honor graduate with a degree in accounting, but had to settle for a job as a bookkeeper.
None of the union workers interviewed at the Bethlehem ball fields on the edge of the Sparrows Point plant expressed any regret about not going to college.
But an older electrician at bethlehem George E. O'Brien, 43, has seen hundreds of union members laid off during his 22 years at Sparrow Point, and was not as inclined to downgrade the value of a college education.
"Neither of my kids showed an interest in college." O'Brien said, but college would be worth the price "for a kid who's really interested" O'Brien said his lack of a high school diploma has held him back.
But above all, said O'Brien in identifying what may be the wellspring for the growing anxiety about preparating for the future, a person needs to feel useful by holding down a job.
"Pushing a broom is better than being laid off," said O'Brien, who has enough union seniority to collect full pay even if he is laid off."I want to know when I get up in the morning that I have a job."