Wayfinders: College, Career & COVID

Artwork: Bianca Vazquez

The pandemic continues to disrupt our daily lives and plans for the future. This is especially true for young people who find themselves at critical transition points where they’re making decisions about college and entering the workforce. Now feels like an especially critical time to help young people maintain optimism about their futures while supporting them in a way that meets this moment of unprecedented challenge. 

In this month’s Wayfinders: 

  • A deeper look into the tough decisions some young people are facing between helping their families and pursuing the college experiences they had hoped for, 
  • A memo from Braven on what we can learn from past recessions about the challenges young workers will encounter and the potential implications for program design, 
  • Resources and tools for K-12 districts and schools to support students in the postsecondary transition,
  • And finally, a list of articles we’re reading and events we’re looking forward to in March.

College and COVID

Freshman year can be tough for many students. For some, the pandemic has made it even tougher. Loss of household income has forced many young people to choose between helping their families or having the college experience they had hoped for.

In spite of increased familial responsibilities and deep uncertainty, young people are staying committed to their futures. Rather than delaying a year in postsecondary enrollment, some young people are choosing to attend community colleges to save money, while others consider alternative certification programs. Many have enrolled in college as planned, balancing the demands of school and supporting their families financially with full or part-time work. From EdSource, read about three young people navigating the transition from high school to college amid the challenges caused by pandemic

Lessons from Past Recessions 

Young people entering the workforce will face daunting challenges as a result of COVID-19 impacts, such as a smaller pool of job prospects and less opportunity for stable, meaningful, full-time employment.  While college graduates may be better prepared to weather the storm than non-college graduates, the pandemic’s impact on the U.S. labor market will have serious and long-term repercussions, especially for Black and Latino students. A look into how recent graduates fared in the aftermath of the Great Recession could help us better understand — and plan for — what young people today will encounter as they seek employment in the wake of the pandemic. 

Greater underemployment increases the importance of pathway and middle-skill jobs that help college graduates build their skills even if these jobs do not fully leverage their degrees. During the Great Recession, quantitative majors, occupation-training majors, and majors that support the growth of the economy saw the lowest underemployment rates. Additionally, while recession graduates are more likely to start at lower paying jobs, they can catch up by switching jobs more frequently than those who graduated in a stronger economy. Read the first memo in a series from Braven on what job seekers and program designers can learn from past recessions to consider in their long-term planning.

Expanding Access for Equity  

K-12 institutions have a role to play in setting students on a successful trajectory after high school graduation. However, many districts lack the resources or tools to appropriately provide the level of support their students require. National College Attainment Network (NCAN) has devoted resources to address this very issue. Drawing on the expertise of hundreds of organizational members in every U.S. state, NCAN works to improve the quality and quantity of support that underrepresented students receive to apply to, enter, and succeed in postsecondary education. NCAN has created a host of resources and tools in their efforts to partner with K-12 districts and schools. Whether you’re looking for additional resources for advising, better data on where your students matriculate, or examples of other districts’ success – NCAN’s resources for K-12 districts has tools to help districts across a wide array of postsecondary transition issues. 

What We’re Reading 

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