(Mark Ciavola) – For generations, it seemed like almost an unwritten understanding that the campuses of colleges and universities across the country were the springboards from which America’s young men and women would launch into careers of all shapes and distinctions. But today’s graduates face a situation that few before them have. At historic rates, we are met with high unemployment and few or no job prospects. Of the Class of 2012, half are either jobless or underemployed.
On Thursday, President Obama is visiting the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) campus, his second trip to Nevada in less than a month. Both on campus and throughout the state, where unemployment is the highest in the nation, individuals struggling to find work will expect to hear concrete plans for a path forward toward greater job creation and economic recovery. To address Nevadans’ concerns, the President would be wise to reach out to the small business community, which creates about two-thirds of new jobs each year and creates about half the country’s GDP.
In recent years, the traditional post-grad employment landscape has shifted dramatically. More and more recent graduates are gravitating away from large firms for smaller businesses. A recent survey found nearly one-third of those polled hope to work for a small or medium-sized business. And though the small business community has traditionally been able to provide those opportunities – it employs about 60 percent of the private workforce – growing regulatory burdens are exhausting their ability to invest or hire.
More than ever, when asked what the biggest problem facing them today is, small businesses point to the challenge of keeping up with the volume of complex regulations coming out of our nation’s capital. Numerous recent studies confirm the same. A Gallup poll earlier this year found 85 percent of the small businesses it surveyed weren’t hiring and nearly half cited government regulations as the reason why. As countless young entrepreneurial graduates can confirm, the prospects of successfully launching a start-up business are haunting. In fact, last fall the rate of new start-ups reached a record low.
Perhaps it is the idealistic college perspective still resonating, but regulators’ refusal to work with business owners to find practical solutions is alarming. Just the other day, a regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator was answering to Congress for comments he made in 2010. In them he explained his instructions to his staff to ‘crucify’ private businesses in order to scare others into falling in line. That attack-first mentality discourages job creation, erodes the public trust, and hurts our economic outlook. Policymakers should be collaborating with small business owners, not combating them.
Restoring a sense of balance to the regulatory process does not require unilateral overhauls. In fact, meaningful reforms will stem from finding common ground on practical solutions. There are sensible ideas one can agree make sense regardless of political affiliation: giving small business owners a greater voice in the rulemaking process; asking regulators to identify objectives with new rules before they start their research; standardizing scientific measurements and practices across agencies; and subjecting new rules to independent review to verify their value. These are concepts taught in the classroom, and it makes sense that we should practice them in the real world as well.
As the President brings his message to Nevada on Thursday, and to the broader campaign trail in the lead-up to this fall’s election, I urge him on behalf of college students nationwide to make definitive reforms to the regulatory process. Thousands of struggling graduates cannot afford to wait until November. Making practical reforms to the regulatory process will ensure we are pursuing smarter policies, and they will help both businesses and regulators work more effectively. Regardless of one’s political outlook, that is a cause we can all strive for. Just ask any graduate moving back home this spring.
(Mark Ciavola is president of the UNLV Student Body.)