Graduation may signify the culmination of a student’s academic career, but learning does not end with a diploma or cap and gown. Education becomes a choice.
Learning moves out of the classroom into daily life, and professors are replaced by friends, family, acquaintances and personal experience. Simultaneously class schedules become work schedules while assignments and grades become projects and promotions.
As students leave the familiar and secure surroundings of college life, they must either create their own paths and assert their own worldview, or adopt other prefabricated molds to which they can apply themselves.
Given the current economic circumstances graduates face as they enter the working world, a self-determined course is preferable, if not necessary.
Transitioning directly from a college education to high-paying, long-term employment is a thing of the past and has been for some time. There is no guarantee that a college degree will provide anyone with a job.
The national unemployment rate is 8.9 percent with California’s rate somewhat higher at 11.2 percent as of April. This growing pool of past and recent graduates and laid off professionals greatly increases competition, a fact that troubles many graduates.
However, there is a silver lining for those graduating into a recession. This difficult time is also an unusual opportunity for people, students in particular, to learn.
While the state struggles with a $42 billion budget deficit and continues to cut back spending on state-funded projects and programs, the CSU system will face increasing financial difficulties.
As more students seek higher education in order to take on an increasingly competitive job market, they must also learn that access to once widely available and affordable education will continue to decrease with shrinking funds.
Graduates might be grateful to be completing their highly state-subsidized education before economic issues alter it irrevocably.
Graduation remains a time of celebration. Current economic woes might, for the moment, dim the excitement. But overcoming this pessimism depends on our ability to move beyond what hinders us to boldly and bravely create what we wish to become.
The challenge is to face these uncertain times head-on, to make the most of adverse circumstances and to always keep learning.