The Value of a College Degree in a Recession

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Situated within the realm of a prestigious American university, I sought to examine how the “Great Recession” is experienced by current Duke seniors and recent graduates, and how it can be contextualized within a debate about the value of a college degree during the job search. I also wondered how these experiences compare to Duke alumni from past years of recession, as well as the expectations of high school seniors planning to enter college in the fall of 2011. After conducting personal, conversational interviews with Duke University alumni who graduated between 1973-1975, 1981-1982, and 1990-1991, current and recent seniors from the class of 2010 and 2011, and high school students in an accelerated magnet program, I discovered that every single participant believed that a college education is the best means of finding a “successful” work position in America. Alumni, college seniors, and college-bound high school seniors alike fell along a continuum of enthusiasm for their education that was almost entirely positive. Though the uncertainty of unemployment during a recession might call into question the viability of a degree, there is still a strong belief in education as a means of secure social mobility.


Cultural Anthropology Undergraduate Senior Honors Thesis




Tricoli, Christen (2011). The Value of a College Degree in a Recession. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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