Life after college

President Barack Obama at the State Of The Union

This post originally published here on the Current TV News Blog.

I’ve been out of college for a little while now.

Six months, two weeks and one day to be exact.

Thing is, I’m not totally sure what I’m doing.

Then again, who is?

Options for college graduates are slim in this economy. And recovery isn’t happening overnight.

Jobs — or at least good ones — are still hard to come by.

One in 10 people in this country are unemployed. In California, it’s one in 12.

Fewer than 20 percent of 2009 grads that applied for a job have one, according to this survey. And it’s no better back in school.

State universities have been cutting courses and programs, like labs for science classes and student exchange programs. All with fewer days of education and tuition fees that keep increasing.

President Obama addressed the needs of the middle class during his first State of the Union address yesterday and expectations were high. He has plans on the way to help the job market, reform higher and lower education, cut taxes and keep his presidency accountable.

They’re minor in comparison to last year’s massive bailouts and the struggling healthcare overhaul, but not a bad start.

While the president attempted to bring back some of that hope we’ve all been missing, I was still left uneasy about the state of the nation.

My generation is experiencing the toughest times our age group has ever seen.

Today’s students, while often supported by their parents, have it harder than ever: we’re constantly under pressure to perform.

Between SAT scores, AP classes and GPAs, there’s always a new way of evaluating how qualified we are for the next step.

Yet, when do we have time to actually figure out what that next step is?

Personally, I’m in a hurry to stop losing money. I work part-time and freelance on the side, but the freelance market for writers isn’t exactly what it used to be.

Savings is a thing of the past. While my parents supported me through college, the deal was you’re on your own once you finish.

So I’m thrown into the wild with $15,000 in debt, not enough work in the field and little time to figure things out when rent is due each month.

There doesn’t appear to be any clear-cut path anymore.

“A high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job,” Obama told the nation yesterday. Yeah, well neither does a college degree.

But at least he’s listening. “In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college” was another line from his speech.

It was our generation that ushered him into office, after all, so we should be entitled to some high expectations.

Obama is promising a $10,000 tax subsidy for community college students and loan repayment reform that forgets a students’ debt after 20 years.

He’s also planning to give tax breaks to parents with kids in college, extend unemployment and create new green jobs.

It all sounds great. Let’s just hope it happens — sooner, rather than later.

For now, empower yourself: understand your student loans, watch the job market, and hold our president to his promises.

Education Schmeducation

EDUCATION SCHMEDUCATION? GOVERNOR DOES SOMETHING TO HELP CA SCHOOLS

Not everyone is as happy as Arnold is about California's public education system.


Originally published HERE 1/12/10 on Current.com’s News Blog:

Finally: a step in the right direction toward bringing public higher education in California out of the gutter.

The Governator last week proposed significant legislation calling for a reshaping of priorities, so that California will “never again” spend more on prison uniforms than on caps and gowns.

It will not alleviate the sunshine state’s education crisis immediately. But as long as we’re spending more on kids than criminals, we can all sleep a little better at night. Right?

Cuts to public education in this state have caused both outrage and outcry — near riots at UCLA, “Save the CSU” protest rallies in Long Beach.

No one likes paying more for less, yet that’s exactly what many of California’s college students have been faced with in the last year.

A former Cal State student myself, I managed to escape (graduate) just as things went south. But I can’t imagine what my friends and former classmates are experiencing right now.

So much for paving the way for future generations, eh?

California’s public universities have been giving students and teachers fewer days of school to save precious funding through “furlough days.”

All this while cutting programs, increasing class sizes and raising tuition as much as 15 to 35 percent.

Today’s students are now burdened with a whole new set of pressures.

And I’m not talking about final exams.

Living on your own? Finding a career? Paying off student loans?

Naw. How about making sure the courses you need to graduate are still being offered? Unlucky freshmen may even find their majors dissolved before they make it to upper division.

Skeptics will write this off as too little too late. But at this point, almost anything is a good thing.

Keep it coming Arnold.

*Reshaping Priorities from Prisons to Universities:  http://bit.ly/6wBBLW

*Find the latest CA info here: http://gov.ca.gov/

Change is more than just a buzz word

Like it or not, the future is here.

Whenever a culture evolves, the media are the first to evolve with it.

We, especially journalists, have to see what is working, what is changing and change with it. Everyone knows the new medium is online, but the concept isn’t as simple as it sounds.

It’s a migration of a physical publication to a digital, interactive, multimedia Web site that features more than just online replications of what’s in print. The print will always exist, for the iPhoneless will need something to read at the coffee shop and students will need something to pick up on the way to class.

But education is having a hard time catching up, especially many college journalism programs. From the Associated Collegiate Press Journalism Convention I attended over the weekend, I took away two key ideals: we cannot look back and professors need to start learning from students.

There are many new forms of writing that have come up in the last few years, and each one is important. Students must be able to write for print, broadcast, online, blogs , local and national. As leading newspapers are folding, local publications, online startups and semi-professional media blogs are thriving.

Well, maybe not thriving, but at least surviving. Smaller newspapers have an advantage because we market to a niche audience: no one covers the Cal Poly beat with as much effort and enthusiasm for Bronco pride as we do here – just take a look at this week’s front page (why my column is here).

In fact, The Poly Post was just awarded fourth place in the ACP Best of Show competition for four-year college weekly broadsheet publications at the new media convention. The convention hosted more than 900 college journalists in San Diego. The Post maintains student interests at all costs, differing from the public relations take of the PolyCentric articles on the campus Web site.

We provide insight, objectivity, and the ability to keep an eye on campus organizations and questionable activities. However, we are held back by three major problems: education, apathy, and resources.

Education

Our writers come in with little training, despite the numerous prerequisites we are often forced to override just to get enough support. A year of writing for The Post will help your skills more than many reporting classes, because you learn each week by writing about something new and getting out into the field.

Apathy

While student bodies at universities like UC Berkeley are infamous for their activism, commuter schools like ours face a lack of overall enthusiasm and motivation on a daily basis.

Most students seem to be here simply because they got in or because Cal Poly was close to home. The communication students don’t even seem to care about published work or their student newspaper, when these are the most critical elements for job experience.

Resources

The total editorial staff of The Poly Post includes less than 20 students, and half of us spend hours upon hours every weekend in an office that looks like it hasn’t changed since 1965.

While we broke down the cubicles just last summer, the only signs of modernism are tucked away in the three silver and black iMacs used for production. Our resources force us to work hard, but hinder our abilities to thrive in the changing generation of journalism .

We focus so much effort on the print publication you may (or may not) put your hands on each week, we’re left with little energy or time to spend on the podcasts, videos, slideshows, and interactivity we are slowly incorporating into our Web site. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect to see continuous updates, like the re-launching of the Web site next quarter, news videos from broadcast journalism students at thepolypost.com/cppvideos, and online coverage of the men’s basketball team all week long as they enter playoffs.

So what are we left with? While the communication department is not completely behind the times here, the print-centric mindset still dominates and students see online as second-fiddle to what should be the priority if any of us are looking to get hired in a job(less) market that just surpassed 10 percent unemployment in California, and is leaving more than 80,000 without jobs nationally.

Does that even matter?

Most of us need to make it on our own. Journalists can no longer market themselves as simply a reporter: we have to be multimedia journalists, bloggers, designers, photographers, and Twitterers.

The systems must continue to evolve and if that means setting free a tenured department head to bring in a cheaper, younger and energetic chair, we should be looking to do that anyway. Isn’t the students’ education more important than one teacher’s job?

Professors who employ blue book writing tests should also take note: have us type our essays, and you’ll get better work. Extensive handwriting is tiresome and old-fashioned. There’s stripped-down word processing software available, so don’t think it’s not possible. There is no direct conclusion here because things will keep changing.

This newfangled technology is not something to be scared of, Luddites. It’s a testament to human ingenuity and creation that we keep inventing new ways to increase productivity and better ourselves.

My single greatest discovery at the convention was something that’s been right under my nose: Google . The mail, documents, and applications features have so much worth looking into for organizing, editing, and creating that any idiot can get savvy without sophistication.