This is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of what is now the University of Guam. Since 1952 more than 14,000 have received their degrees from UOG.
In fact during Sunday’s spring graduation ceremony one student, Jan Ronnie Nilo Vallarta, was identified as graduate number 14,000. The university gave him a bachelor’s degree in accounting, plus a UOG gift bag and a plaque of the “Big G.”
The release from the university didn’t say whether they also gave Mr. Vallarta a job, or have found him one through their placement office. Probably not, although with a degree in business administration accounting he should be able to land one. The same cannot be said with assurance about all the rest of Sunday’s graduates.
That’s because they are entering an economy that is shedding jobs, not creating them. Guam’s economy is not growing. Most of these graduates will either continue their schooling, with most going off island for advanced degrees after which they will not likely return to Guam. Or they will head off-island with their newly earned degrees when the moribund Guam economy turns out to have little to offer them. The ones who graduate into a decent job are the lucky ones.
It’s even more difficult to imagine what Guam’s newly minted crop of high school graduates will do with their diplomas. Those who do not go on to higher education are pretty much stuck with a service-type job in the visitor or retail industries, or in food service. At the high school graduate level the lucky ones are those who’ve had the opportunity to get some training in a skill, such as computers or mechanics, for which some employer will pay.
In some respects Guam is a “who you know” kind of place, so those with the right political connections may still graduate into a government job. But those patronage positions aren’t as available as they used to be, and neither a high school diploma nor a college degree are the tickets to good paying, rewarding careers they used to be.
The fact is this generation coming into adulthood now is figuring to be the first since the early part of the last century which will not be better off than their parents. All across the country more and more college graduates are moving back in with their folks rather than setting up their own households, putting off marriage and having children until they can afford them.
And the grim reality for our youngsters is that Guam’s blue collar, low wage economy doesn’t have much to offer today’s graduates now, or in the immediate future.