Will The Children of Millennials Be Able To Afford College?

High school kids have a number of roads to follow when their public school career ends. They can enter a job training program. Maybe they’ll choose to join the military. A few will choose to do volunteer work. Some will travel. Still others will go straight to work.

Many students, though, want to go to the college of their dreams. When Gen Y’s parents were kids, they could work their way through school. According to an article in the Journal Sentinel, it costs parents and students three times as much to attend college than it did 40 years ago. In the late 70s, working a full-time summer job and 10 hours a week during the school year would pay your tuition in full. Today, a full-time college student couldn’t work the 50 hours a week it requires to pay for tuition at a standard state university.

Tuition costs continue to rise, but they are doing so at a faster rate than inflation. Students cannot keep up with rising costs in the US, forcing them to leave school or downgrade to part-time.

I started my college experience in the fall of 2014. I was fresh out of high school, 18-years-old, and excited to start my college experience. My plan was to graduate with a Master’s in Journalism and Communication and a minor in Education. However, in January of this year, I watched my life spin down the drain. My school messed up my financial aid, forcing me into a debt I didn’t know I had. To avoid the debt, I had to drop out.

For two months I worked full-time at my job at a copy center, making minimum wage. I moved out on my own. I applied for online schools. In March, I was accepted into Southern New Hampshire University, and I will begin my sophomore year in September while continuing to work full-time. If I start chipping away at my loans now, I will have little debt when I graduate. This wasn’t the plan, however. My plan was to go away to college, make friends that will last a lifetime, and leave with a degree from a private university. I am now living in my hometown with almost no social life, working towards a degree that many consider “unofficial” because I worked towards it with online classes.

In the United States, student debt has skyrocketed to $1 trillion. Only two countries, Mexico and Japan, rank lower on affordability than the US. Norway ranks as the highest in affordability with costs at only 596 US dollars.

An education is crucial for young people today. Millennials are a lot more likely to be underemployed than any other generation. However, Millennials are more optimistic. 88% of Millennials are optimistic about finding a new job while only 81% of Gen Xers and 73% of Baby Boomers are. Millennials are more likely to work hard for their futures, no matter the odds.

Bringing down tuition costs will likely not happen in the near future, but it can be achieved. In Norway, education is viewed as a public good, so 100% of the education budget is publically funded. Few private universities exist in Norway, allowing for students to receive the education they want from virtually any school in their country. We fund elementary through secondary schooling, why not college as well?

This article was written by Ryssa Gordon, a writer for dusk magazine. 

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