Before the collapse of the communist system, passing the university-entrance examination meant being able to find a secure job after graduation. In the first years afterward, many skilled laborers in state industry were laid off. The economy, however, managed to absorb graduates. When recession hit in 2000, the situation reversed. Data from the Ministry of Labor now show that the number of unemployed graduates reached its peak in July 2003: more than 15,000 people, or nearly 4 percent of the total unemployed population. Unofficially, the number of unemployed people who have a degree is thought to be much higher, approximately 40,000 to 50,000.
Because university funding levels are determined by the number of students they enroll, schools are still heavily recruiting applicants. Coupled with the rise in unemployment is an apparent decrease in the average compensation that graduates can now expect. At the candidate.hu online job fair for university and college students, newly graduated economists, computer scientists and engineers were looking for starting salaries of US$971, based on the fact that graduates in the second half of the 1990s were finding positions with a starting salary of US$1,068. But now, economics majors who graduate with no special qualifications are typically offered approximately US$364 per month.
In 1990, there were 24,100 graduates; in 2003, 47,200 people age 18 to 24 graduated from a college or a university. Since the collapse of communism, the number of students has almost tripled; today there are almost 400,000 students pursuing higher education. In addition, the government is seeking more graduates through a policy whose aim is to have every second member of the younger generation in college by 2010. Since schools are subsidized on the basis of the number of students they enroll, a place is found for almost every applicant.