COVID-19

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

David Brancaccio and Rose Conlon May 7, 2020
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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
Heard on:
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

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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