PBS’s Woodruff Chronicles the Struggles of Young Finance Majors

Ever since the U.S. economy started sinking, countless TV news correspondents and anchors have set out on cross-country road trips to touch base with how Americans in the heartland are coping with the downturn.

Next week on PBS’s NewsHour, Judy Woodruff will check in with a slightly more rarefied demographic of folks struggling to make it in this dire economy—namely, the next generation of college kids hoping to strike it rich on Wall Street.

The piece is part of an ongoing series, called Generation Next, in which Ms. Woodruff interviews young Americans—from would-be car workers in Michigan to future wind-turbine mechanics in Oklahoma—as they try and get their careers jump-started despite one of the worst job markets in the past century. The resulting pieces air on PBS and NPR.

For the story about the prospects of would-be Wall Streeters, Ms. Woodruff spent several days at Duke University (her alma mater!) in late April on the eve of graduation. There, she meets a handful of finance majors hoping to land high-paying gigs in New York, only to find their dreams of post-collegiate life in Murray Hill momentarily thwarted.

“It used to be assumed that if you were good at math and you had any interest at all in finance and economics that this was a great career,” said Ms. Woodruff. “You could go to New York. You could work for this successful institution. The world was your oyster.”

“What we found, ultimately, was that banks this year expect to hire 70 percent fewer people than they did last year,” said Ms. Woodruff. “Some of the students we interviewed had internships that in the past almost always led to job offers, but in these cases didn’t,” she added. “Instead, a lot of these kids are doing Teach For America. They are working at nonprofits. They’re going to grad school. They’re completely rethinking what they want to do with their lives as a result of this.”

If it sounds like a nice opportunity for schadenfreude, Ms. Woodruff’s choice of subjects—which favors kids from modest backgrounds rather than say, captains of the lacrosse team—promises to stir up some sympathy from viewers. Not to mention more angst for PBS-watching parents.

“Nationally, two years ago, 51 percent of college grads had a job as of graduation day,” said Ms. Woodruff. “This year it’s something like 19 percent.”

“I think it’s bleak everywhere,” she added.

The roughly nine-and-a-half-minute story will air on The NewsHour on Monday, June 15.

PBS’s Woodruff Chronicles the Struggles of Young Finance Majors