It has been a rough decade for college grads when it comes to earnings, especially men.

After taking inflation into account, male college graduates suffered a 9.7% decline in pay from 2000-2010 (bachelor's only), according to Michael Mandel Women college grads saw no decline at all in real earnings. .

Mandel says the data suggests the story that the job market is moving against male-dominated industries and occupations is essentially right.

This is obviously not universal, given the high demand for computer and tech jobs, which tend to be male dominated. For example, 80% of computer software engineers are male. which should be a plus for male wages. But the 'tech effect' seems to be overpowered by the 'health-education-effect', since health and education occupations, which have done well over the past decade, are for the most part are disproportionately female.>

The personal finance result is that parents and students need to be more careful than ever about how much debt young adults take to get a college diploma. It takes a long time on a very tight budget to repay student loans off stagnant (women) and declining (men) earnings base.

Don't get me wrong: A college education still pays off in the job market, especially compared to their high school only and high school dropout peers. The message in the numbers is to be careful at the amount you borrow. Choose a college that isn't a financial stretch.

Follow Chris Farrell at @cfarrellecon