Economic Collapse puts Graduates on Unforeseen Paths

As the economy collapsed last fall, so did the job prospects of thousands of college seniors, especially those who had set their sights on Wall Street.
But after the initial panic, some students said they felt an odd relief.

Instead of going straight into a 100-hour-a-week job at an investment bank, they are pursuing less lucrative but potentially more satisfying opportunities in public service, enrolling in record numbers in the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and Teach for America. Other students seeking refuge from the recession are flocking to graduate schools, increasing competition for admission.

At elite universities such as Harvard, where about half the graduating class would enter finance and consulting in years past, many students say they feel liberated to consider alternative career paths, crediting not only the tanking economy but also President Obama’s call for public service.

Fourteen percent of this year’s senior class at Harvard applied to Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that sends graduates to work in low-income urban and rural public schools. The proportion was 9 percent last year.

"There’s always that push to make money and be comfortable, but the financial crisis made me think that there’s a lot more in life than going to get that corporate job," said Matthew Clair, a Harvard government major who will spend the next two years teaching at an Atlanta primary school. "It gave me a good excuse to take some more time off to do what I’m really passionate about."

Across the country and in nearly all fields, employers expect to hire 22 percent fewer graduates from the class of 2009 compared with last year, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The drop is even worse in the Northeast, with a 39 percent decrease from last year. Read full Story.


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