I am sad for my students, especially the graduating seniors in my courses this semester. This is our last week of classes, and graduation ceremonies would have been next week. A semester that began for them with optimism, the usual anxieties, and/or senioritis is ending in challenges they never could have imagined.
The state university where I teach is primarily a commuter school. We have plenty of traditional college kids but also many older, returning students. A few are privileged, many are fortunate, and some have worked very hard to get to – and through – college. A fair proportion are first generation. Some students work full-time, others have small children or parents to take care of, and yet others both work and care for families. Many overcame challenges daily, just to make it to class or to submit their assignments. I want them to have their graduation celebration -- they’ve earned it! And yet now, for so many, that is least of their worries.
They’ve also earned a chance at their chosen careers. As recently as February 20, 2002, the LA Times declared “the job market is hot.” That same job market has now gone dark. Graduating seniors with job offers or good prospects now have neither. Students ready to move on to careers – rather than jobs – immediately lost part-time food service jobs. and are now financially vulnerable. All of them face a shuttered economy with poor job or career prospects in the short term and likely in the long term. Faculty and career services staff, alike, are pivoting and scrambling to offer graduating seniors tips and training for a virtual job market that is only now developing. The truth is, we don’t know what it will bring any more than the students do.
I am sad for students. And, as futile as I know it is, I am also mad at the world on their behalf.