MADISON, Wis. — As Americans hear directly from President Trump about his effort to conceal the realities of COVID-19, college students and recent graduates across Wisconsin are grappling with an uncertain future thanks to the president’s mismanagement of the pandemic. Last night, Opportunity Wisconsin hosted a roundtable discussion with some of those students and Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski to discuss their struggles and concerns about graduating into the global pandemic.
Moderator Kate Beaton, an Eau Claire alderperson and Opportunity Wisconsin steering committee member, set the scene for the conversation, “Not only does the class of 2020 carry skyrocketing amounts of student debt – a staggering $32,731 for the average student – but this year’s graduating class also heads into the worst recession since the Great Depression due to the administration’s disastrous response to the pandemic.”
It didn’t have to be this way. The Trump Administration has offered nothing to this next generation of our workforce, many of whom are now drowning in student debt, frantically searching for a footing for their next steps.
“I had an on-campus job, and it was the one form of employment that was bringing in any kind of income to deal with expenses for my housing, my tuition, and my books. Unfortunately, I was part of the furloughs, as were many other working students on campus,” said Trenton Ebel, a senior at UW-Green Bay. “I’m kind of scared to go back to work because I don’t know what the virus would do to me if, God forbid, I were to catch it. We’ve all been dealt a losing hand one way or the other.”
1.3 million students graduated nationwide from 2 and 4 year institutions in 2020; and they face competition against the 51.8 million people who have filed for unemployment as of July that have experience in their fields.
“You would think that in the nursing profession you would be able to find a job, but a lot of nurses were being furloughed from their jobs as well. I had so much health care experience but it was so challenging finding a job,” said Allyson Arens, a 2020 graduate of Madison Area Technical College. “The administration should have focused on the coronavirus right away and taken it seriously. The sooner we get the virus under control, the sooner people will feel more comfortable with doing things like traveling, eating out, going to sporting events.”
“My experience was pretty traumatic – it really just came out of nowhere,” said Noah Robinson, a 2020 graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. “I still have yet to receive my degree, my cap and gown, and not to mention a job after college.”
President Trump’s economic policies have actively hurt Wisconsin by putting billionaires and big corporations first, and leaving working and middle-class people behind. Between rising housing costs, wages not keeping up with the cost of living, and nearly non-existent benefits, many in the Badger State are just barely getting by. The president’s botched policy response to the coronavirus pandemic has only made matters worse for Wisconsin workers.
“It’s not just about the mismanagement of COVID-19, the reality is that the Trump Administration was actually never building an inclusive economy from the beginning,” said Godlewski. “And further, they were never investing in you or me, the next generation.”