With fewer jobs, more students choosing public service
The graduating class of 2009 is entering the work force in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In the past, the work force and graduate school have been the top two choices for seniors. But a third option is growing in popularity: public service programs, like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and Teach for America.
“Now (public service) is holding equal weight with the job market and grad school, if not a tier below,” said John Paganelli, Bridgewater State College’s acting director of career services. “These are three viable options.”
By committing to a year or two of service, students are hoping to weather the economic storm, Paganelli said.
Teach for America received more than 35,000 applications this year, a 42 percent increase over 2008.
Teach for America spokesman Trevor Stutz said that while the economy has reduced competition from the private sector job market, he credits President Obama’s call to public service for the increase in applications.
“Service is growing,” said Diane Bell, director of Bridgewater State College’s community service center.
“A lot of us aren’t fortunate to land a job that we love,” Bell said. “If you love to serve and want to do a little bit of travel, the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are perfect for that.”
While AmeriCorps is something Bridgewater State College senior Katie Costello has always considered, the unstable economy factored into her decision.
“I’ve always been involved with community service,” said Costello, a business major. “It seemed like good timing for it, with the economy where it is. Going into the job force is a little shaky.”
Stonehill College senior Chris Tirrell applied to Teach for America and 15 law schools, but expected financial aid for graduate school would be hard to come by this year.
The Plymouth native was surprised when several of his top schools, including Notre Dame and Duke, gave him aid, making his decision between service and grad school much harder.
“When the job market looks so bleak, you want to turn to alternatives,” he said. “Service is becoming a lot more attractive.”
Current AmeriCorps member Sarah Buckley works at Bridgewater State College, coordinating volunteer opportunities for students.
After graduating last year from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, she didn’t want to rush into a job or grad school.
After a year with the program, she’s choosing between renewing her commitment for a year, or going to grad school. She’s applied to Emerson College’s publishing and writing program, and is waiting to hear back.
“I know I have a job next year if grad school doesn’t work out,” she said. “A lot of people can’t say that.”
Allison Manning may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHOOSING PUBLIC SERVICE
Here’s what you get by signing on with one of these service organizations:
Teach for America: Same salary and health benefits as other beginning teachers, paid by school district; eligible for education award of $4,725 at the end of each year of service; student loan forbearance.
AmeriCorps: Some members receive a “modest living allowance” during the term of service; education award of $4,725 for full-time members; eligible for student loan forbearance.
Peace Corps: Living allowance providing similar standard of living to people in the community; $6,000 for transition back to life in the U.S; assistance finding a job upon returning home; two-year volunteers given “noncompetitive eligibility” for government jobs; deferment of student loans.
Source:Organization Web sites.
Applications by the numbers
35,000 Teach for America applications this year, a 42 percent increase over last year.
13,011 Peace Corps applications this year, a 16 percent increase from last year.
171,085 applications to AmeriCorps programs this year, an increase of 7.8 percent, over last year.