Tough Times for College Students as Unemployment Rises

Students everywhere are in need of jobs

Students everywhere are in need of jobs. (Photo by

By Mary Ogunji

Twenty-two year-old Taiwo Kehinde, an undergraduate at Brooklyn College remains unemployed at the moment. On Monday afternoon, while he was “bumming around,”as he said, he discussed his struggle to get a job.

“My parents stopped paying my tuition because they want me to grow up, and because I got kicked out of school,” Kehinde said.

Unemployment is becoming an issue that affects the lives of many college undergraduates. Students interviewed  at Bronxwood, in the Boston Road community, discuss the challenges they faced when looking for jobs during their summer break.

Many said that they are applying for jobs not only to have some extra cash for themselves, but also to help pay their increasing tuition.

Vivian Johnson, a 20 year-old rising junior at the University of Albany, has been unsuccessful in obtaining a job for the summer. She applied through the Summer Youth Employment Program, but “since it’s through a raffle I didn’t get it,” she said.

Summer Youth is an employment program sponsored by the city, which offers jobs to local youth between the ages of 14 and 24. According to the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development, the program counts about 35,000 participants at 5,800 work sites.

But despite this and other youth employment initiatives, the unemployment rate for teenagers remains high. According to a June 2013 nationwide employment situation report by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistic, “the unemployment rate for teenagers is 24.0 percent.” That number includes both those who are students and those who are not. In New York, it includes those who, like Johnson, unsuccessfully applied to the Summer Youth Employment Program.

After failing to win the raffle, Johnson applied to six other jobs. She only got two interviews, with Macy’s and American Apparel, but she was not hired by either store.

Avon training center located on Allerton is open for hiring. (Photo by Mary ogunji)

Avon training center located on Allerton is open for hiring. (Photo by Mary Ogunji)

“A lot of retail jobs want you to be in the city and they don’t have enough seasonal positions,” she said. “I wanted a retail job because the experience would be needed for my future goals.”

Although she was disappointed for not being hired, she is also trying to get a part-time job in school.

Johnson, who aspires to be a businesswoman in the future, studies in Albany.  By the time she comes back to the city the position would be filled up by others applying to the same job, she said.

Johnson needs a summer job “to contribute to my family of a single mom and three other siblings,” she said, and added, “I have expenses in the city and in Albany. I have to buy books and other school supplies.” Her tuition and fees at the University of Albany add up to $19,550, according to the school’s website. Johnson pays for her tuition through a scholarship and loans.

Although Johnson is jobless at the moment, she volunteers as a model and works with designers.

“It’s a great way to spend my time and network,” she said.

Taiwo Kehinde, whose parents cut him off financially, reapplied to Brooklyn College as a full-time student and a business major. His tuition cost $2,715 and he said he took out “a lot” of loans to pay for it.

The report “With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them,” released by, a nonprofit organization, surveyed more than 6oo people from age 22 to age 30, comparing students who dropped out from college to those who graduated with their degrees.

“Of those who did not graduate, 58 percent did not receive support from parents or other relatives, and 69 percent did not receive support from a scholarship or financial aid,” the report concluded – highlighting the struggle faced by many students who cannot afford to pay for their education and end up falling behind.

Kehinde believes there are not a lot of jobs available because “the economy is poor,” he said.

“I’m just applying for every job now,” he added.

Ever since his parents cut him off financially he has been looking for jobs, “to buy a few books and transportation money for school,” he said.

According to the National Bureau of Economics Research, the recession that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009.  The NBER said it “did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity.” In spite of what officials said, the recession is far from over for Bronx business owners.

Bx Gear, a retail store, located on Allerton (Photo by Mary Ogunji)

Bx Gear, a retail store, located on Allerton (Photo by Mary Ogunji)

 Joe Barmy, manager of Bronx Gear on Allerton said, “Business is bad.”

“We have no part-time opening for college students,” Mr. Barmy said, “I have to make my son work here because we can’t afford other workers,” he pointed to the young men hanging clothes on the shelves.

College undergraduate, Priscilla Brown (Photo by Mary Ogunji)

College undergraduate, Priscilla Brown (Photo by Mary Ogunji)

After waiting for a job for about 2 months, 19 year-old Priscilla Brown, an undergraduate at the University of Albany started working on July 7, 2013. She applied to Summer Youth in May before school closed and “then I just got a phone call and they told me to bring my required documents and I was able to do that and that’s how I got a job.” The last time Brown had a job was three years ago at age 16.  She is currently working at the Administration for Children Services (ACS), and mainly organizing and filing papers for her job. But before getting a job at ACS, she had to apply to multiple jobs, “like about 10 jobs,” she said.

Many undergraduates during the summer of 2013 are determined to find a job. They are all looking to accomplish something be it money or experience. Brown said, “work for me whether I like it or not, I like being busy,” and “I like to keep myself busy so I don’t go insane.”


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