The Coronavirus’ Impact on College Graduates

Julia Bighetto, a Computer Science and Advertising senior at Boston University, was supposed to start her new job in software engineering in June, but, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, the company hasn’t given her a start date. She said that she is terrified of losing her job, and that her plan B wouldn’t be ideal.

“The computer science environment is a booming area right now, and it’s something that I can find remote jobs even, if necessary, so I think that with this part of my background I can at least do something, but it’s not going to be what I want to do,” said Bighetto.

Bighetto is counting on her new job to pay rent in Boston, and said that she will move back in with her parents if it gets canceled.

She is not the only one. College graduates all around the world are likely to face unemployment and lower wages due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis, according to Professor Geoffrey Carliner, an economist and lecturer at Boston University.

“You learn a lot of things at BU, but you learn even more when you go to work, and if you’re unemployed for 6 months, then you don’t get a great job after that, you’re going to learn a lot less, so your wages are going to go up a lot more slowly,” said Carliner.

Unemployment in the U.S. could hit up to 32% in the second quarter of 2020, the highest rate in American history, affecting 52.81 million people, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Carliner also said that it is hard to predict how much and for how long students will be impacted.

“Even if [the recession is] very deep, if the economy bounces back really quickly, then the effect on people getting out of school when looking for jobs is probably not going to be very great, but if it is a deep and somewhat long recession, then the effect on recent college graduates is going to be more serious and more long-term,” said Carliner.

More than two million U.S. college graduates will be looking for jobs by June 2020, and, based on data from previous recessions, they could be economically impacted by this year’s crisis for the next 10 to 15 years, according to a UCLA Economics Department’s research published last month.

International graduates’ student visas (F-1) may also be impacted by the crisis, making it harder for those students to apply for an Optional Practical Training (OPT), a 12 month employment authorization to F-1 students.

Gustavo Andres Alarcón, from Ecuador, a electronic production and design student at Berklee College of Music, was supposed to graduate this summer; but, because of the crisis, Berklee’s summer term classes will be remote, and Alarcón decided to graduate in the fall instead. He said he is more worried about the crisis’ impact on his student visa and OPT than about its economic impact.

“Musicians are going to still be musicians even though we have a good or bad economy,” said Alarcón. “I still have my visa, but in the next year it is going to expire, and if we’re still in this kind of crisis, I’m just going to have to leave the U.S.”

Alarcón planned to move to Los Angeles and work as a freelancer after college, but if his visa expires he will try to go to Europe instead.

Despite all the economic hardship that students will face, Carliner encourages graduating seniors not to lose hope.

“I think it’s going to be really tough, and then eventually students are going to be okay,” said Carliner. “Stay home, teach yourselves some useful skill that you didn’t learn at BU, like to do more and more stuff online, students seem to be pretty good at that, and keep looking.”

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