Education Has Become a Commodity and Young People are Paying the Price

Most millennials were told that once they got out of highschool, they were to immediately go to college and get a four-year degree. For severalreasons, baby boomers and Gen-X parents of millennials sought a better life fortheir children. For many, millennial children would be the first to graduatefrom college — only 17% of male boomers and 12% of female boomers ended upwith at least a 4-year degree between the ages of 18-33, compared to 21% ofmillennial men and 27% of millennial women[1].However, as the number of educated young people in thecountry increases, the number of jobs requiring higher education has becomemore competitive. In addition to fewer jobs in the fields that millennials aregraduating from, prices for college attendance have gone up and an increasingnumber of students are having to turn to loans to supplement their degrees.After graduation, many young Americans with dreams of obtaining their ideal jobare being faced with the harsh reality of a job market that doesn’t supporttheir job goals or their college debt.

Dismissing the Myth of EntitlementMillennial graduates are facing harsh criticism from theirparents’ generation, despite their parents playing a large part in influencingtheir attendance of college. Living at home post-graduation is lazy, demandinghigher pay is entitled, and doing nothing with a degree after graduation iswasteful. But the statistics don’t lie – there are reasons for the behaviorsthat former generations deem to be lazy, and many of those behaviors are insome way related to the current state of college education.

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In 2017, the national average in student loan debt waslisted at 1.3 trillion dollars with 44 million borrowers[2].Forbes referred to it as a “crisis”, and that is surely an accurate way ofportraying it. Those graduating in the class of 2017 looked forward to anaverage of $31,333 [3] –meaning that there are some out there with significantly higher debts riding ontheir shoulders. Paying an average in $351 monthly[4]in student loans wouldn’t be extraordinary if all college graduates received aliving wage, but the truth is that most are scraping by to make payments on necessities.With the average price of monthly rent leveling out at about $1,249[5],average monthly utilities bill totaling $112.

59[6],and grocery bills topping those numbers off, the average post-graduate Americancan expect at least $1,700 per month in living costs. With the number ofcollege graduates working minimum wage jobs at 71% higher than a decade ago[7],affording these payments has become harrowing, if not impossible for manycollege graduates. In turn, this has led to an increase of millennial-agedpeople living with parents or roommates to attempt to afford the cost ofliving. Other Hurdles FacingPost-GraduationAnother myth that permeates United States culture is that Millennialsare not as savvy with their money as previous generations, leading to theirmisuse of money and their inability to handle student loan debt.

However,statistics state otherwise. As many as 60% of Millennials have $10,000 or lesssaved up for retirement, a statistic that many jokingly blame on a penchant foravocado toast. However, studies show that most Boomers have just over thatsaved for their own retirements, despite having much longer to have saved thismoney in a better economy[8].Additionally, many are increasingly aware that they need to save a hefty amountof their income, even an average of 22% [9],to retire. But with almost $2,000 in living expenses for the average American, there’sjust too much month at the end of the money.Is there a solution? For those who are currently facing harsh economicalretributions for their college degrees, probably not. However, this does notmean that Americans should turn a blind eye as nation student loan debt pilesup.

Making College MoreAffordable & The Workforce More UnderstandableMost college graduates faced with crippling debt did not understand theseverity of college costs when they walked onto campus their first day ofcollege. Although scholarships were encouraged by guidance counselors andschool jobs were pushed by parents, the emphasis for the millennial generation(and the current generation) was on getting into college rather than breakinginto a desired profession. For those who did pursue degrees in fields they wereinterested in, such as liberal arts, education, or social sciences, an averageof 33% regretted their decision[10].For all the counseling, it was not enough to foretell that they might facemajor career trouble after graduation.That aside, is better counseling about what to expect after graduation enoughwhen the cost of school is skyrocketing? Careers are becoming increasinglyadvanced, requiring more scientific, narrowed STEM degrees with knowledge thatcannot be obtained through a high school degree. Because the need for collegegraduates is still high, the price of schooling must go down to make room fornew scholars without sending them into indentured servitude. The rate of pay is much lower than it used to be in thepast, yet the cost of public schools has risen. While many who graduated before1999 boast that they paid for tuition out of pocket without loan help, theyalso received proportionally bigger paychecks and thousands of dollars less inoverall loan rates.

But it’s not about being fair, it’s about saving futuregenerations from drowning in debt. It’s about allowing them the chance toachieve the family, retirement, and healthcare that their parents were affordedwhile giving them the chance to continue their education. While the impacts ofcrippling student loan debt are only just beginning to arise, they must bestopped. Lowering tuition rates is not only fair, it is crucial for the futureof the United States.