Is college worth the cost? A future filled with debt shouldn’t be the only option for focused teens

college application
Look familiar, teens? College application is in full swing.
Students at the University of St. Thomas
Students at the University of St. Thomas scan over material and study for exams during finals week on the St. Paul campus.

Back in late November, The Atlantic began linking articles noting the statistics of Millennials on Tumblr. Millennials, or Generation Y, include anyone born post-1982 up to 2004. Many people around this age range make up the demographic of Tumblr.

The article stated that Millennials were less likely to buy homes and cars after college, which for some bizarre reason, perplexed the poster. They wanted to know why Millennials, after graduating and getting a “real job,” aren’t going after houses and cars.

Upon further research, it turns out that because Millennials are less likely to take out loans and pursue the “American Dream,” we’re called the “Peter Pan” generation. Millennials, as a whole, have bigger gaps between so-called rites of adulthood than previous generations.

Peter Pan indeed. It’s not like there are extenuating circumstances. It’s just because we don’t want to grow up.

Baby Boomers and Generation X refer to Millennials as the “me” generation. We’re lazy and useless! We’ll never leave our houses! All we do is mooch off our parents and take selfies all day!

“When I graduated from college, I started with nothing and within a few years had already bought a house and blah blah blah.”

But they also fail to recognize that they grew up in an amazing economy and then subsequently created one of the worst in American history.

So to The Atlantic, let me break it down for you. Why aren’t Millennials hung up on buying houses? Cars?

Most of them probably can’t afford to. Why? What are all those people blowing their money on? College tuition.

COLLEGE CONCERNS

Our society almost universally fails to recognize that not everyone should be—or even can be—going to college. Not all jobs should require college degrees. Trade schools are still an option! But all I’m hearing from public high school teachers is that everyone should be aiming to go to college right after graduation. Nobody talks about other options.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, nearly half (46 percent) of the people that enter a domestic college manage to graduate within six years. But not all of the people that drop out are leaving because academia isn’t for them. Instead, the cost of going to a college in the United States is outrageously expensive.

And it’s already affecting my life since I’m a year away from graduating high school. Buying Chipotle two times a month shouldn’t make me feel guilty. But I can’t help but think about how it adds up over time. And then I begin worrying about all the debt I know I’ll have to pay back—you know, since the average college graduate leaves campus owing about $26,600, according to Forbes.

Back in 2004, the average debt was $18,650. Hamilton Place Strategies predicts that in ten years the average student debt will be equal to the median yearly salary a graduate will earn.

And I’m not the only one who (quite reasonably) worries about paying student loans. Today’s teen is forced to grow up in the face of massive college tuition and the expectation that college is the only answer.

All my friends are stressing themselves out over doing well in school and volunteering so that they can collect as many scholarships as possible. I don’t particularly enjoy the concept of competing with my friends for desperately needed money this early in my life. But it’s not like I have a lot of options—it’s either cut their throat or pay in full.

It’s also stressful for people who are good at a few things, but aren’t the best at everything. I feel like I’m dragging my heels as I get older, because as much as I’m excited to see where I’m going, I don’t know a thing about what I’m going to do. With scholarships and class ranks, it’s easy to see who’s better than you and by how much. Especially in the final years of high school, that disparity between you and the next person seems to be much more significant.

Ultimately, I’d love to know where that $13,626 (tuition alone for the University of Minnesota) per student is going every year. Does it really cost that much to provide an education? Will anyone come and enlighten me as to why we are shackled with thousands in student loan debt whereas some so-called “socialist” countries will pay their students to go to school?

This is the kind of thing that discourages people from wanting to further their education. Yes, getting a good job is important. Learning things is very important. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s really worth it, if there’s a chance that I won’t even be able to pay it back since it’s possible I won’t be hired once I graduate. A college graduate friend of mine, who came out of the University of Michigan, worked at Home Depot for half a year before he finally got hired in his own field.

UNATTRACTIVE OPTIONS

Not to mention, the things that I love and are good at are all shrinking fields. Journalism is changing a lot, to the point where future journalists are expected to do the job of more than one person—eliminating jobs that were previously done by specialists. I have to reasonably think about my major, and I don’t think I can study whatever I want to. I have to settle somewhere when I can expect to be paid, like the growing IT field. Once again, this isn’t a phenomenon limited to myself. My other friends have their own passions that they feel compelled to set aside.

The average age of retirement has increased, which is hilariously the fault of the Baby Boomers and Generation X—the same people who criticize Gen Y for doing nothing. What am I supposed to do? All of you are still working!

And yet banks still expect us to start paying them within six months of graduation. “Grace period,” they say. I’m not feeling very “graced.” Sadly, some people fail to realize that going to a private college with a yearly rate of $40,000 a year isn’t very intelligent to do for someone with a dream degree in philosophy.

Inflation is still going at its healthy rate of one to two percent a year, but the minimum wage isn’t going up to account for that gap. So even if I get a job at McDonald’s, it will take me ages to pay any debt back.

And these people have the audacity to say, “Oh, just get a better job.” That’s not exactly an option! Besides, who’s going to get you fries at midnight if no one is running the graveyard shift?

So please don’t ask why we’re not buying houses. You probably already know.

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