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

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Most millennials grew up hearing their parents tell from a young age that once they got out of high school they were to immediately go to college and get a four-year degree. For several reasons, baby boomers and Gen-X parents of millennials sought a better life for their children. For many, millennial children would be the first to graduate from college — only 17% of male boomers and 12% of female boomers ended up with at least a 4-year degree between the ages of 18-33, compared to 21% of millennial men and 27% of millennial women.[1]

However, as the number of educated young people in the country increases, the number of jobs requiring higher education has become more competitive. In addition to fewer jobs in the fields that millennials are graduating from, prices for college attendance have gone up and more and more students are having to turn to loans to supplement their degrees. After graduation, many young Americans with dreams of obtaining their ideal job are being faced with the harsh reality of a job market that doesn’t support their job goals or their college debt.

Dismissing the Myth of Entitlement
Millennial graduates are facing harsh criticism from their parents’ generation, despite their parents playing a large part in influencing their attendance of college. Living at home post-graduation is lazy, demanding higher pay is entitled, and doing nothing with a degree after graduation is wasteful. But the statistics don’t lie there are reasons for the behaviors that former generations deem to be lazy, and many of those behaviors are in some way related to the current state of college education.
In 2017, the national average in student loan debt was listed at 1.3 trillion dollars with 44 million borrowers.[2] Forbes referred to it as a “crisis”, and that is surely an accurate way of portraying it. Those graduating in the class of 2017 looked forward to an average of $31,333 [3] – meaning that there are some out there with significantly higher debts riding on their shoulders. Paying an average in $351 monthly[4] in student loans wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if all college graduates received a living 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 leveling out at $112.59[6], and grocery bills topping those numbers off, the average post-graduate American can expect at least $1,700 per month in living costs. With the number of college graduates working minimum wage jobs at 71% higher than a decade ago[7], affording these payments has become harrowing, if not impossible for many college graduates. In turn, this has led to an increase of millennial-aged people living with parents or roommates to try and afford the cost of living.

Other Hurdles Facing Post-Graduation
Another myth that permeates United States culture is that Millennials are not as savvy with their money as previous generations, leading to their misuse of money and their inability to handle student loan debt. However, statistics state the otherwise. As many as 60% of Millennials have $10,000 or less saved up for retirement, a statistic that many jokingly blame on a penchant for avocado toast. However, studies show that most Boomers have just over that saved for their own retirements, despite having much longer to have saved this money up in a better economy. [8] Additionally, many are increasingly aware that they need to save a hefty amount of their income, even an average of 22% [9], to retire. But with almost $2,000 in living expenses for the average American, it is hard to set any of their money aside.
Is there a way to fix this? For those who are currently facing harsh economical retributions for their college degrees, probably not. However, this does not mean that Americans should turn a blind eye as nation student loan debt piles up.

Making College More Affordable & The Workforce More Understandable
Most college graduates faced with crippling debt did not understand the severity of college costs when they walked onto campus their first day of college. Although scholarships were encouraged by guidance counselors and school jobs were pushed by parents, the emphasis for the millennial generation (and the current generation) was on getting into college rather than getting into a field of work that they were interested in. For those who did pursue degrees in fields they were interested in, such as liberal arts, education, or social sciences, an average of 33% regretted their decision.[10] For all the counseling, it was not enough to foretell that they might face major career trouble after graduation.
That aside, is better counseling about what to expect after graduation enough when the cost of school is skyrocketing? Careers are becoming increasingly advanced, requiring more scientific, narrowed STEM degrees with knowledge that cannot be obtained through a high school degree. Because the need for college graduates is still high, the price of schooling must go down to make room for new scholars without sending them into indentured servitude.
The rate of pay is much lower than it used to be in the past, yet the cost of public schools has risen. While many who graduated before 1999 boast that they paid for tuition out of pocket without loan help, they also received proportionally bigger paychecks and thousands of dollars less in overall loan rates. But it’s not about being fair, it’s about saving future generations from drowning in debt. It’s about allowing them the chance to achieve the family, retirement, and healthcare that their parents were afforded while giving them the chance to continue their education. While the impacts of crippling student loan debt are only just beginning to be clear, these impacts must now be stopped. Lowering tuition rates is not only fair, it is crucial for the future of the United States.

[1] How Millennials Today Compare with Their Grandparents of 50 Years Ago. Eileen Patten and Richard Fry.
[2]Student Loan Debt in 2017: A $1.3 Trillion Crisis. Zack Friedman
[3] Student Loan Debt Statistics 2017. The Student Loan Report.
[4] A Look at the Shocking Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2018.
[5] Where People Spend the Most (and Least) to Live in the United States. Priceonomics Data Studio.
[6] Average Monthly Bill – Residential
[7] Twice as Many College Grads in Minimum Wage Jobs as 5 Years Ago. Danielle Kurtzleben.
[8] The 14 Most Destructive Millennial Myths Debunked by Data. Richie Norton.
[9] Millennials May Have to Save 22% of Their Yearly Income if Market Returns Drop. Johnathan Todd, CFA.
[10] What College Graduates Regret. Eleanor Barkin.

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