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Holding out Hope

Two years ago, America was enjoying one of the hottest economic periods in its history. Unemployment was down, the stock market was up and companies in need of educated employees were fiercely recruiting graduates. But that was two years ago.

Michael Tooke, assistant director for USF’s Career Center said, “If you had a degree, especially in a technological field, it seems like you could demand high salaries. And now you’re hearing that it’s very tight, that there aren’t as many openings.”

But according to Drema Howard, director for the Career Center, this doesn’t mean students should throw in the towel.

“We’re seeing students somewhat taking a passive approach because they hear that people are getting laid off,” said Howard.

“The reality is that if they take that passive approach, it’s the kiss of death, because there are still employers that are hiring.”Tooke agreed.

“There are jobs out there, they’re just a little more difficult to find.”

Senior John Valdez sees the lagging economy a bit differently.

“I think people are taking it (the economy) way too seriously,” he said. “It seems to be picking back up.”

Whether it’s a big deal or not, the current recession is affecting more than just students’ career options. Recent cuts in the state budget have some students worrying about their academic future, as well.

“I depend completely on scholarships and grants from the government,” said junior Michelle Dunk. “I’m worried that they’re going to cut the money I get from the grants, because then I’m going to have to get a better job.”

Valdez, a medical technologies major, has also seen cuts affecting his education.

“In one of my lab classes, they’re saying that they don’t have the money and they’re not sure if they’re going to be able to do a lot of the experiments that they did last year,” he said.

Ken Wieand, director for the USF Center for Economic Development Research, sees the latest cuts as a double-edged sword.

“One of the things that happens with a slowdown in the economy is that college enrollments go up,” he said.

With more students enrolling and less money coming in, colleges are left to make some dramatic decisions, according to Wieand.

But Wieand says the good news is that while USF and other government institutions may be facing a tough challenge, most individuals won’t feel the pinch.

“There will be very little impact overall on personal finances,” Wieand said.

This means that students don’t need to start saving every penny with the fear that rainy days are coming.

Instead, education should be students’ primary concern.

“You’re saving by investing in your human capital,” said Wieand.

Howard takes this approach one step further.

“What we really encourage students to do is to become pro-active job seekers,” she said.

“Yes, the economy is weaker than it has been in the last two years. Yes, the reality is that unemployment is around 5 percent. But that means that 95 percent of people are working. That means there are shifts, there are changes within organizations. And there are promotions going on, and there are students getting jobs. But it’s those people that are pro-active job seekers,” Howard said.

And there are plenty of indications that this recession will be finished before too long.

Even with the Sept. 11 tragedies taken into consideration, Wieand says the economy should make a quick recovery.

“A year after Pearl Harbor and even the Gulf War, the stock market was higher than it had been before anything happened,” he said.

Valdez, in particular, is optimistic about the future.

When asked what he plans to do when he graduates, Valdez simply said, “Get a job.”

  • Contact Dustin Dwyer at