Recruiting Youth in the College Market: Current Practices and Future Policy Options

By M. Rebecca Kilburn; Beth J. Asch | Go to book overview

Chapter Three

PAYING FOR COLLEGE: A SURVEY OF MILITARY AND
CIVILIAN FINANCIAL AID PROGRAMS AND
POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION COSTS

C. Christine Fair


INTRODUCTION

College Attendance and the Challenge to Recruiting

Recent difficulties by the services in meeting recruitment targets are in part a result of the business cycle. The civilian labor market experienced a long period of robust growth in the 1990s; the unemployment rate, which was 7.3 percent in January 1992, declined to 4.7 percent in January 1998 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998). However, there is reasonable evidence to suggest that difficulties in meeting recruitment targets are not transitory and will not be mitigated by a contraction of the labor market. Rather, Asch et al. (1999) have suggested that these difficulties may stem in part from permanent changes within the civilian labor market that have made civilian opportunities more attractive to high-quality youth.

Specifically, the labor-market return to attending college has risen dramatically. The college premium—the percentage difference between the real wages of a four-year college graduate and a high school graduate—increased from 40 percent in 1979 to 65 percent in 1995 (Mishel et al., 1997, cited by Asch et al., 1999). Although the 4.3 percent increase in the real wage of the college graduate may account for some of this premium, most of it can be attributed to the 11.8 percent decrease in the average real wage of high school graduates

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