Thousands graduate at U of M; future of Biden student loan debt plan still uncertain

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Millions of excited college students are celebrating this holiday season as they reach their dreams and get their diplomas.

On Dec. 11 in Memphis, thousands had the honor of doing so.

Even as they’re saddled with ballooning student loan debt and what could be a prolonged job search, many were still optimistic about their future.

Hundreds of expected University of Memphis graduates and their families filed into the FedExForum where, inside, they took the stage and got their diplomas.

“I’m so proud of myself,” said Melissa Glenn, who said she was graduating after raising a family. “With the kids grown and gone I had the chance to go back to school.”

The culmination of years of hard work, and graduation came as fears of a global recession grew and as graduates prepared to enter a historically difficult pandemic job market.

This year, prospects appeared better than last year as a 16,000 student survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed undergraduates getting, on average, 1.14 job offers before graduation, which was reported as the highest number since the Great Recession.

“Anxiety about the job market is there but I do feel pretty well prepared,” said Kaitlyn Zarecor, graduating with double degrees.

Fears lead some to stay in already established jobs, and others, to continue their education.

Ryan DiMento said he worked at a large discount store and planned to continue working there.

“I would rather have a step in the door already than already have to worry,” DiMento said.

Zarecor said she would be attending graduate school.

“I definitely want to be more prepared. I think having a master’s behind me would be a good idea,” she said.

Graduation also came as more than 40 million borrowers, eligible to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt, awaiting a Supreme Court decision as to whether the program would proceed.

A lawsuit brought by more than 20 states challenged it.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Carmesha Collins-Sanford, who said she had taken out student loans, including federal loans.

“I’m a little hurt by that,” said graduate Chelsea Allen.

Even as they filed in to accept their diplomas, an uncertain future may lie ahead.