Disneyland, Walt Disney World Suspend College Programs

July 2, 2020, 3:04 PM · The Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts will not be hiring their college program students for this fall and beyond, the company announced today.

In an update posted to the Disney Internships and Programs social media, Disney said that it is suspending the Disney College Program until further notice and withdrawing employment offers. Disney previously sent home its spring semester program participants early, when the parks closed in March. It then dismissed its scheduled summer program participants.

This is essentially a layoff of tens of thousands of Disney theme park employees, signaling that Disney does not expect its theme park attendance to rebound significantly anytime in the immediate future. While the Walt Disney World parks are preparing for a phased reopening later this month, the Disneyland Resort's theme parks remain closed, with no sign of a potential reopening date.

Meanwhile, college across the country are wrestling with the logistics of reopening their campuses to students this fall. Many schools that draw students from across the country are hesitant to reopen dorms to thousands of students from a variety of communities, including some Covid hotspots. The Disney College Program would have faced the same challenge in housing students from across the country, some of whom might be bringing the coronavirus into the community.

And then there's the issue of demand. Until tourism returns to 2019 levels, Disney simply won't need as many cast members as it planned at the beginning of the year, when many college program students were accepted. Universal Orlando and Legoland Florida also recently laid off employees, as the theme park industry begins to adapt to what looks to be a sustained period of lower attendance, due both to capacity limits to support safe physical distancing and sharply reduced travel worldwide, including the continued closure of international borders and mandatory quarantine periods for visitors coming from certain US states.

Replies (9)

July 2, 2020 at 3:26 PM

Given the rising number of cases in Florida (and how they still seem to ignore how bad it really is), can see folks wary of being there for some time. However, with Universal, Sea World and Legoland all open, I do still think WDW will try July opening (perhaps later in the month) to make up lost costs but it shows the danger going around.

July 2, 2020 at 3:49 PM

College kids have utterly failed at stopping the spread as they partied while the country is under lockdown, which helps explain why the median age for positive cases is relatively low. I can’t imagine Disney wants to have to worry about that at their housing complexes.

And before anyone accuses me of telling the kids to get off my lawn, keep in mind I’m in my mid-20s.

July 2, 2020 at 3:54 PM

Do you think that the next few years will see a similar travel decline as much as when 9/11 happened?

July 2, 2020 at 3:56 PM

This one is going to make 9/11 look like a blip.

July 2, 2020 at 6:20 PM

Considering all parks around the world were closed for months and are all operating at very limited capacity for an unforseeable amount of time it's fair to say this will be [and has already been] way way worse than 911 for the industry.

July 3, 2020 at 1:09 AM

Not at all surprising given that US tourism will likely take at least a year to recover and international tourism a few. Realistically, I don't see Florida looking normal until spring/summer 2022. While Disneyland has the potential to rebound quicker once they're able to open, it's going to depend largely on what happens on the AP front. If a majority of them forfeit their pass in the next year, you could see significantly diminished crowds there until the next big anniversary year.

July 3, 2020 at 5:29 AM

To be perfectly honest my wife and I's conversations (here in the UK where a visit to Disney World is a massive financial undertaking) have moved from 'damn we can't go this year' to 'we'll go next year instead' to 'we'll plan on going in 2022' and now towards 'I wonder whether we'll ever go again'...

That's how serious this 'blip' is going to be...

July 3, 2020 at 7:32 AM

I can’t say I was a big fan of these. I’ve read many of the “ears their ears” series (and other autobiographies from the same publisher)... although many of them included a lot of crap Unfounded complaints you’d expect from a teen with their first job, a lot of the practices by Disney concerned me a lot, and the rate of pay vs how much was deducted for accommodation seemed like the good old days of “selling your soul to to the company store”.

The US is on the “Red” list here... with the UK government trying to open aviation and leisure travel again (but not giving its domestic partners the info they need to agree), the only viable Disney park I can see for us is Paris, and with the potential of a further local lockdown or being turned away at the airport if I have a temperature, travel even to a “safe” country seems risky.

July 3, 2020 at 10:37 PM

There have been major ebbs and flows regarding the college program in relation to the economy. 10+ years ago during the recession when the labor market was really bad I remember it was very difficult to get a job after your college program ended, they allowed a lot of people to stay seasonal and be on a wait list for part time. Then over time the labor market got a lot better and a job after your program ended was virtually guaranteed. Then in the past couple years as the economy really ramped up Disney started to realize the people willing to work at the wages they were offering were...well... not cutting it, they started raising wages and paying full tuition. Once they started paying everyones college tuition then getting a job after your college program became extremely competitive again even in the good job market they had college educated kids fighting over late night food service jobs. Disney's reputation went from being a bad employer back to how it was in the 70's/80's when people in Central Florida viewed it as a good job. I think a lot of that has to do with George Kalogridis and Josh D'Amaro trying to resurrect the ship after it sunk during the Meg Crofton years.

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Quote: "To be perfectly honest my wife and I's conversations (here in the UK where a visit to Disney World is a massive financial undertaking) have moved from 'damn we can't go this year' to 'we'll go next year instead' to 'we'll plan on going in 2022' and now towards 'I wonder whether we'll ever go again'..."
I don't know how old you are but that seems way over dramatic to think that you will never feel safe going back to the USA.

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