How post-pandemic America can help college students launch careers

In addition to getting the half-million college hopefuls back to school, our leaders need to ensure that millions of college students from low-income backgrounds can put their hard-earned degrees to work.

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The campus of University of Illinois at Chicago.

The campus of University of Illinois at Chicago.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

As highlighted in your recent editorial, more than a half million college dreams delayed is an astounding price to pay because of the pandemic. But there’s another hidden cost to this crisis: the college-to-career transition.

Even before COVID-19, college graduates from low-income households earned 66 cents on the dollar compared to wealthier peers. Now, an already inequitable system is ready to fall like dominoes unless we offer these students more career preparation, paid internships and opportunities to grow their professional networks.

We’re already seeing the first domino teeter; this spring, internships plummeted by 50%. Internship numbers are one of the strongest predictors of initial post-college career success. Based on historical trends, this drop will have the greatest impact on students from low-income backgrounds and students of color.

This is important, since those who are initially underemployed after graduation are five times more likely to be underemployed after five years.

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We can stop the dominoes from falling. Our large public colleges can be unparalleled engines of economic mobility, but we need to fund them appropriately, incentivize them to use public resources for innovative and rigorous career preparation, and transform programs like work-study into career accelerating internships that can be done even at a for-profit company off campus.

We need corporate America to invest in genuine change in how it recruits, retains and promotes great talent, and that needs to start with keeping paid internship programs. Finally, the government can create a modern New Deal through a paid internship and jobs fund — offering opportunities for community college students, four-year undergraduates and recent graduates to build their resumes now.

In addition to getting the half million college hopefuls back to school, our leaders need to ensure that the millions of college students from low-income backgrounds who are currently in school can put their hard-earned degrees to work.

Aimée Eubanks Davis, Founder/CEO of Braven

Opinion Newsletter

Maybe the GOP will just disappear

The time has come to mark the end of an administration characterized by hypocrisy, denial and embarrassment.

It is ironic that the proclaimed party of fiscal responsibility allowed corporations to reap billions of dollars in reduced taxation now decides that giving $2,000 to the family making $75,000 or less is unacceptable.

The Republican Party continues to embarrass itself while millions of Americans suffer. Not only has the federal government failed to coordinate relief to states thus far; it also is now failing to conduct a program to bring the vaccine to the public in an efficient and timely manner.

Meanwhile, the GOP continues with its outlandish claims of voter fraud to try and disqualify millions of votes, all for the sake of the ego of a president who has turned his back on Americans.

To borrow the phrasing of President Donald Trump, if the Republican Party does not return to reality soon, maybe it will “miraculously disappear.”

Daniel Pupo, Orland Park

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