By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG - Ella Bailey was one proud mom Sunday, snapping pictures of her son Davon, a freshly minted Bucknell University graduate, getting him into different poses with his degree.
“I am really happy,” said Davon, of Upper Marlboro, Md., beaming now that four years in college have brought him to this day.
Mother and son have even more reason to smile: Davon, who majored in economics, has a good job. In June, he will start with Bank of America in Charlotte, N.C., where he will work in risk management and compliance, focusing on the banking industry.
Another reason to smile: Davon has somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 in college debt, about a third of the national average of $30,000 for this year’s graduates, according to a Wall Street Journal article Saturday. In fact, most Bucknell graduates The Daily Item spoke with Sunday are in good positions as they leave the Lewisburg liberal arts school, which held its 163rd commencement Sunday, bestowing degrees on nearly 900 students.
Most have little to no student loan debt.
“Most of these students are cinched up” with employment after graduation, said Matthew Slater, a professor in Bucknell’s department of philosophy, watching Sunday’s ceremony. “I’m not concerned for them at this moment. They’re entering a different financial economy. I know a lot of them have jobs or are going to graduate schools.”
That rings true with the Journal article, which said the class of 2013 enters the work force in a better economic climate than there was in 2009 as this class went off to college.
But the average college graduate this year leaves with about $30,000 in debt, the Journal said, a heavier debt load than in 2009.
That was the situation for Alaina Puff, of Pittsburgh, who received her degree in psychology and education.
Puff is concerned “a little” about her college debt, about $30,000, she said. “But I know with this degree, I’ll get a good job. I’ll be fine.” She intends to go to graduate school for psychology sometime in the future, and for now she is bound for Cleveland, where she’ll be a teaching assistant with a group called City Year, an AmeriCorps nonprofit organization that seeks to keep young people in school through graduation.
Other graduates used other channels to keep their debts low. Bailey, for instance, received a Posse Foundation scholarship, chosen among 1,200 from the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area at the time, Ella Bailey said. Davon Bailey was among just 10 students chosen for their academic excellence and potential for college success, according to the foundation’s website.
Alyssa Dunn, a standout on Bucknell’s women’s basketball team, attended school on a full athletic scholarship, she said. The Mason, Ohio, native, now holding a bachelor’s degree in management, heads next to Atlanta, where she will work in market research for The Nielsen Company, she said.
Even without debt, the next step out of college can be intimidating. Bradley Meyer of Long Valley, N.J., now has a degree in civil and environmental engineering but no job yet, he said. He plans to go to graduate school at some point.
“I’m a little nervous but excited about what lies ahead,” Meyer said. “I want to be sure to take the right first step.”
Whatever the financial situation, it was clear between the graduates and the estimated 12,000 people attending to see them that Sunday was a day to celebrate a big achievement.
“I’m really overcome,” Puff said with obvious emotion about graduating. She is the first person in her family to get a bachelor’s degree, she said. “I’m really happy.”