How should teens plan a path to the future in the time of coronavirus?


It’s graduation season, usually a time of celebration, recognition of achievements, and excited anticipation of what’s to come.

This year, graduation, like almost every aspect of life, looks different. Students graduating from high school in 2020 won’t have an opportunity to walk across the stage to receive diplomas or gather for a party with family and friends.

Decisions about the future are more challenging too. I was struck by a recent article from NPR, which talked about the “debilitating uncertainty” high school students face as they consider next steps.

A recent stat says that 1 in 6 high school seniors have changed their post-graduation plans. For some, the economic impact of COVID-19 may have put their first choice college out of financial reach for their families. Some are concerned about safety and may choose to delay college by a year or attend a school closer to home. Others are considering significantly more student loan debt than originally planned.

Another recent piece in The Atlantic draws parallels between “Generation C” and the 2008 financial crisis, during which young people were faced with similar economic uncertainty and limited employment prospects. At that time, many chose to take on large amounts of student debt to delay entry into a difficult job market, and still face the financial repercussions of those decisions.

As with so many aspects of this crisis, these challenges exacerbate systemic inequities. Teens who already faced barriers in accessing higher education or a stable career path are facing even greater ones.

I don’t want any teen to feel debilitated by the challenges of this moment, or make decisions about their future from a place of fear. I want them to be able to avoid the pitfalls of the past. That’s why I’m more committed than ever to ensuring that our programs reach as many teens as possible — in particular, our Money Path app.

Money Path helps students make decisions from a place of knowledge and empowerment, not fear. They can compare possible paths side by side and see the long-term financial impact of each, not just while in school, but throughout their professional lives. The new Money Path 2.0, rolled out just a couple of months ago, includes several options for paths that are specifically helpful to students during this time. Students can plan to begin at a community college and transfer to a 4-year university, or budget for a gap year during which they can work and save for future education.

I want the teens we serve to face this uncertainty with confidence that they are making the best possible decisions for their financial futures. My message to them is: Keep dreaming big! Apply to the college of your dreams! But use tools like Money Path to run the numbers, and be prepared with solid backup plans. This is a difficult time, but you’re not alone – we’ll be here to walk with you toward a secure future.

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