Graduates face employment, student loan challenges

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Thousands of young men and women who graduated across the Commonwealth Saturday are facing a number of challenges.

In Richmond, students graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Virginia Union University (VUU).

Rev. Al Sharpton, of the National Action Network, delivered the commencement address at Virginia Union University.

"Don't drive through life looking at the rear view mirror,” said Sharpton in his speech. “But keep looking through the windshield of life.  And be determined to know where you're going."

That’s good advice for the class of 2012, who face numerous obstacles, from a weak job market, to rising student loan costs.

In fact, the national unemployment rate remains high at 8 percent. However, the percentage of workers under age 25 who are unemployed is much higher at 16.4 percent.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers' 2012 Job Outlook, employers are hiring, but with caution. In fact, they plan to hire nearly 10 percent more new graduates this year than they did last year.

However, another concern for graduates is the possibility of rising interest rates on student loans. 

But some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are fighting to keep them low.

For example, Congressman Bobby Scott, D-3rd District, said that many students are graduating with anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 in student loan debt.  That’s why he says it is so important to keep rates law.

Plus, grads are entering a super competitive job market.

Christia Johnson, a VUU mass communications major, considers herself lucky.

"I have a job now,” said Johnson. "I started internships during the summer and they offered me a position for the Fall."

Johnson also said that students who apply themselves and prepare in school, will have a much easier time finding a job when they graduate, regardless of the economy.

However, for others, it is not so easy.

"You think when you go into to college you're going to have a job lined up for you when you're going out,” said Brittany McCauley, a VCU graduate. “I think a lot of graduates are kind of seeing like it's not so much just getting a degree and just bam you get a job you know." 

Still, experts said getting that degree is essential in today's economy.

Additionally, experts said college graduates who majored in nursing, teaching, accounting or computer science are most likely to get jobs.

"I’m not too worried about finding a job because with the health field, it's a recession proof job,” said Dimitrice Finley, a VCU grad. “So, I feel there's always going to be work out there."