Em-URGE-ing Voices

Your urgent thoughts, urging action

What the Class of 2015 Won’t Have

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May 11, 2015

Flickr: John Walker

The U.S. Department of Education recently released its National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. Congratulations Class of 2015! You’re graduating with the largest student loan debt in history.

Mic recently reported the findings and I couldn’t help but feel déjà vu as I read through it. Why? Because the online publication reported on this historical accomplishment last year, with the Class of 2014. Now, two may not make a trend, but I’m calling it anyway.  This historical accomplishment will be made by each graduating class from now on unless we do something about the cost of higher education.

As a member of the Class of 2015 graduating with loans myself, I can’t stress the need for this change enough, especially since older generations don’t quite understand what this means for our society. This is made blatantly obvious when we hear (often from conservative politicians) about how they used to work over the summer to pay for college, as if that was a possibility for us millennials. Between an increased popularity in unpaid internships among employers  and entry-level jobs that ask for 3-5 years of experience, how are we supposed to even get the jobs to help us pay for college?

Personally, I have worked a job every year of my undergraduate career, including some summers. This past semester I have even worked 2 jobs in addition to being a full-time student and I can tell you that in one year I can’t expect to make enough to pay even 25% of the sticker price at my institution for that same year.  So why do other generations try and use the “work over the summer to pay for college” argument? They do it because they’re choosing to ignore the fact that college costs have skyrocketed while wages have stagnated.

For the 2014-2015 school year, the average cost of an in-state public college was $23,410 while the average private college was $46,272, but some added up to even more. Some institutions have surpassed the $60,000 mark. That’s more than a student can expect to make a year upon the completion of their degree.

What’s an even bigger problem is that each year is seeing more and more people with bachelor’s degrees which means that we’ll be forced to pursue even higher degrees to be competitive in the job market.  So what’s wrong with these higher degrees? Well, they’ll mean even more debt.  But whats the problem with all this debt in the greater scheme of things?

Some effects have already been seen, and they’ll only continue to get worse if the ‘student loan debt record breaker’ trend continues. Millennials are not spending like previous generations, and in a free-market capitalist economy, this is dangerous. Now many articles attribute this to effects of the recession, changing cultural shifts, and low wages. I’m not going to say those aren’t factors, but I can’t help point out that some either miss or don’t give enough importance to one factor in particular: our growing student debt.

Some might question how important our spending habits could be to the economy so let’s run through some. Let’s start with homes; millennials are too indebted to be willing to add the debt of a house, so we won’t be buying them. Housing market beware! Cars are also really expensive, so we probably won’t be buying those either. Weddings are expensive too, so we either won’t be getting married or we’re very much toning down celebrations. Good luck with us, wedding industry! And kids, kids are incredibly expensive; you have to buy them clothes, food, toys, etc. And, what if they want to go to college?! We can’t even afford college for ourselves; how are we supposed to pay to send our kids to college, especially if rates continue to rise. I guess they could take on loans…but we wouldn’t want them to have to suffer our same burden. I guess we just won’t have them.  Bye-bye marriage, and homeownership, and cars, and kids… Huh? Look at that, we’re being priced out of the American Dream.


Thelma Hernandez is the URGE communications intern and a graduating senior at Georgetown University. 

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