Story at a glance
- The coronavirus pandemic devastated the economy, forcing many into unemployment and limiting job opportunities.
- A study of 402 students enrolled in college and pursuing an undergraduate or postgraduate degree found considerable apprehension about the future.
- Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering solutions to the country's mounting student debt crisis.
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, an entire generation had to readjust their plans and expectations for their future — after having taken out thousands in student loans. Now, another generation is facing the same uncertainty in a post-COVID world.
A majority of college students are expecting the coronavirus pandemic to have a negative effect on their ability to find a good job, whether in their career field or at all, as well as their short-term prospects — but many aren't sure what this will mean for the long term.
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"Students graduating in 2020 or 2021 likely had different expectations regarding their postgraduate careers when they first enrolled. During their time in school, the entire world around them shifted, tanking the economy and gaining them millions of job market competitors," said Kristyn Pilgrim, who authored the analysis for CollegeFinance.
In a survey of 402 college students pursuing either an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, most were aiming for at least an entry-level job in their field, if not a professional-level job. But only 39 percent expected to get that entry-level job, and only 1 in 5 expected to get a professional-level job in their field, with others expecting part-time jobs, internships, freelance gigs or taking an entry-level job in a different field altogether.
“The majority have scaled back the typical fairytale expectations and accepted that finding a job during these times won’t be that easy. They’ve also faced the reality that the jobs and salaries they aim for are likely not the jobs and wages they will get. Nevertheless, the new professionals entering the job scene are about to start their journey – and they have a plan to make it to the top,” said Pilgrim.
Men were slightly more confident of their prospects than women and also expected to make more money, both right out of college and later in life — anywhere from $5,000 to nearly $20,000 per year.
Students who grew up in low-income households were more likely to expect a professional-level job, but not their ideal job, while those from higher income households were more likely to expect an entry-level job and more confident in landing the ideal job. Students who grew up middle class, meanwhile, were most likely to expect they could reach high-level positions, including manager, executive or business owner, and planning on working their way up from the bottom.
Still, college students are overwhelmingly expecting COVID-19 to have a negative effect on their careers. In fact, the study found, more are worried about the pandemic's effect on the economy and their career fields than are worried about their own safety or health.
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