Nevada County graduates consider options in wake of COVID-19
Graduating amid the uncertainty of COVID-19’s effect on job prospects and the upcoming fall term at colleges, this year’s high school graduates have experienced challenges in deciding what they will do next.
Dawn Anthney, a college advisor at Forest Charter School, said that seniors reached out more frequently for support this year as they weighed their post-graduation options, and that some are still in that evaluation process.
She said that job scarcity is a major concern among the school’s students, not only in those who had planned exclusively to work, but also those whose college plans were dependent upon holding a job alongside their studies.
“They are thinking about how they are going to meet the financial need that has been unmet in financial aid packages, and they’re worried in the current job market about how they will be able to supplement that,” said Anthney.
In response to this uncertainty, some graduating seniors who had previously planned to enroll in a four-year university have opted to stay closer to home, enrolling at Sierra College instead.
Cindy Grimm, head counselor at Bear River High School, said that the accessibility of attending Sierra College — offered at no cost to California residents who are first-time students — played a significant part in some of her students’ decisions.
“Many are still going on to four-year or trade schools, but this has pushed some who were on the fence about it to choose to go to Sierra College first,” said Grimm.
Some students’ financial considerations surrounding college have not only centered around the ability to pay for it, but whether doing so would be worth it in the case that fall terms will be held remotely, according to Nevada Union High School Principal Kelly Rhoden.
“Especially with some of these colleges, it’s pretty costly,” said Rhoden. “So, they’re concerned about the amount of money they might spend on college only to not have the help that they need or professors in front of them.”
Rhoden added that the pandemic and the resulting need for social distancing has also caused some graduating seniors to reevaluate their preferences for a future career, with some prioritizing potential for independent work, unsure of the limitations the “new normal” might bring.
Dominie Wilhite, a counselor at Ghidotti Early College High School, emphasized the role Sierra College has played in supporting local high school students as they navigate their options. She said that around 10% of her students who planned to attend a four-year university this year have reconsidered.
Wilhite attributed some of this phenomenon to financial difficulty as some students’ parents have faced lost or limited employment, affecting their ability to help pay for college. She added that she has encouraged students and families to contact college financial aid offices directly if their financial circumstances change, because many schools offer the option to appeal financial aid awards in these cases.
Wilhite said some students decided against moving away for college because they didn’t feel satisfied in their understanding of the environment they would be entering in the fall, citing the cancellation of campus visits and uncertainty of whether instruction would be held virtually.
“We’re fortunate to have Sierra College, which was a frontrunner in announcing that they were going online for the summer and fall, so students throughout the county had that knowledge to work with,” said Wilhite.
In an unexpected silver lining, Wilhite said, there has been a rise in the number of students admitted to universities for which they were originally wait-listed.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union.
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