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

Most millennials were told 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 an increasing
number of 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.

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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 extraordinary 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 totaling $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 attempt to 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 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 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, there’s
just too much month at the end of the money.

Is there a solution? 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 breaking
into a desired profession. 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 arise, they must be
stopped. Lowering tuition rates is not only fair, it is crucial for the future
of the United States.