New college grad: We need help in COVID-decimated job market

A 2020 UGA grad says his graduating class may face the worst job market since the Great Depression.
A 2020 UGA grad says his graduating class may face the worst job market since the Great Depression.

Credit: JESSICA MCGOWAN / Special

Credit: JESSICA MCGOWAN / Special

A 2020 University of Georgia graduate offers ideas to help young job seekers cope with pandemic

Quinn Webb graduated the University of Georgia in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental economics. In this guest column, the Forsyth County resident discusses the bleak job market awaiting him and other new grads and suggests policy changes that could improve their plight.

By Quinn Webb

As a May graduate of the environmental economics program at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, my interests include sustainable business, public administration, data science, and Interdisciplinary research. With the world as we knew it upended around my graduation, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the pandemic and economic solutions to help support recent graduates, from the high school to the post-graduate level .

Let’s first examine unemployment here in Georgia. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 607,851 unemployment claims were processed last month in Georgia. The federally funded $600 a week for people filing for unemployment benefits will no longer be available if Congress does not act before the payout expires Friday.

Quinn Webb
Quinn Webb

My graduating class may face the worst job market since the Great Depression. For example, a friend and I applied to more than 200 jobs combined. All told, we received three interviews. My friend can fall back on unemployment insurance, enabling her to focus on searching for her first professional job. Since I didn’t work during my last year of college, I am ineligible for unemployment benefits and have to rely on the good will of my parents to continue supporting me even as they face furloughs and longer hours on the clock.

Where is the American dream of working hard to get an education that would lead to good steady job at the end?

I have three ideas targeted toward recent graduates to help us through this crisis. The first and most important is extending unemployment benefits to all recent graduates who have not worked full-time in the past year. This is to ensure that we can pay our bills and focus fully on searching for our first professional job. Not only will this help us in the short run to find and secure a job, it will help strengthen the broader national economy by ensuring a significant portion of the population can continue paying their bills and purchase goods and services.

Another burden facing grads is the loss of parent coverage for medical insurance for children over the age of 26. During the pandemic, we need to be allowed to stay on or rejoin parents health care plans. Because it is difficult to get a job right now, many current and recent graduate students will be burdened with crushing medical bills if action is not taken to prevent this. This would also mean many will be left uninsured and could become at much higher risk of inadequate COVID-19 related medical care.

Even before the virus became a threat, college graduates had another looming problem: student loans. The latest statistics on U.S. student debt show $1.6 trillion is owed by students. Some students hold more than $100,000 in student loans to underwrite degrees ranging from artist to physician.

Thanks to the CARES Act, many federal student loan debt holders were able to defer payments on their loans until Sept 30. However, this forbearance period needs to be extended for another 12-18 months until the virus is contained to avoid the risk of defaults on these debts.

These three solutions are not exhaustive of all options, but they hold promise to start scaling back the economic threat of the virus and help jumpstart our economy again. The trick is working past our differences to make these policies a reality.

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