COVID-19

This college has pledged to find jobs for 100% of its 2020 graduates

David Brancaccio and Rose Conlon May 7, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Class of 2020 graduates around the country may experience long-lasting hits to their income graduating into a recession. Scott Olson/Getty Images
COVID-19

This college has pledged to find jobs for 100% of its 2020 graduates

David Brancaccio and Rose Conlon May 7, 2020
Class of 2020 graduates around the country may experience long-lasting hits to their income graduating into a recession. Scott Olson/Getty Images
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Related, from the Marketplace archive: In 2018, the 10th anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis, we spoke to graduates of the class of 2008. They shared their experiences of graduating into the Great Recession, as well as advice for making ends meet in difficult times.

You can listen to that reporting here.


In a matter of months, the COVID-19 crisis has turned what had been one of the best job markets for expectant college graduates into one of the worst.

As the class of 2020 completes their coursework remotely, add “finding a job during a recession” to the list of their worries — a feat that those who graduated during the Great Recession know something about.

Colby College, a small liberal arts college in Maine, is trying to make the job search easier with a new initiative seeking to secure jobs or other postgraduate opportunities for 100% of its senior class.

But not just any job, according to Colby College President David Greene.

“It’s important that they end up with a great job,” Greene told “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio, citing research that shows people who graduate into a recession can experience long-lasting hits to their income.

“Wages are often depressed for 15 years or more when they come out in a substandard job. One of the ways that they often catch up is by job-hopping. So if we can avoid that for this graduating class — and I think we can — then it’ll make a huge difference for them.”

Greene said the college’s administration is mobilizing to make good on its pledge. The following is an edited transcript of his conversation with Brancaccio.

David Brancaccio: Really? A job to everyone in the class of 2020 is the goal?

David Greene: That’s the goal. It is a tough market, obviously, and about 60% of our students right now do not have a job. And our goal is to find one for every single one of those students.

Brancaccio: Yeah, even though there are tens of millions of newly unemployed people in the job market. What resources are you putting into this quest?

Greene: We’re calling on all 30,000 of our alums and families to help out with all of this. We’ve surveyed all of our seniors to understand the type of jobs that they need. And then we’re turning our entire advancement team — they usually are raising money for us, but now they’re all job seekers, 45 of them are just focused on finding jobs for our seniors. And then we’ve got another 50 people on campus who are doing the same.

Brancaccio: I was going to ask, by jobs, what do you mean? I mean, there are jobs, and there are jobs that are stepping stones to the career of one’s choice.

Greene: Yeah, it’s important that they end up with a great job. I’ll tell you, really interesting studies that have been done on what happens to graduates and recessionary jobs, and their wages are often depressed for 15 years or more when they come out in a substandard job. One of the ways that they often catch up is by job-hopping. So if we can avoid that for this graduating class, and I think we can, then it’ll make a huge difference for them.

Brancaccio: What’s your deadline? Soon?

Greene: I’d like to do it in three months.

Brancaccio: Do you see wider lessons here for higher education? I mean, tuition at places like yours — I think at your place it’s north of $74,000 a year — it’s not too much to ask to expect a job at the end of it.

Greene: I don’t think it is either. I think that we add an extraordinary amount of value to our students, but we need to demonstrate that in every way. We have a program right now where, from the first year that students come in, we help them find internships, global experiences and research experiences, we fund them and that’s helped them enormously.

But this is a different type of moment right now. And so we have to do everything we can. If we can call on 30,000 people in our community — we only need to find 300 jobs, that’s the beauty of this. Two hundred of our graduating seniors already have them; there are 500 in the class. We’ve got 30,000 people to find 300 jobs. I think we can get that done. And if we can succeed in the toughest market, I know that we’re going to have extraordinary success in the up markets.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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