The economy is still recovering. Everybody knows that. But what they don’t know is that while the government passes legislation primarily geared towards middle-aged people to stimulate the economy, Millennials may be the ones to look out for.
For instance, this article talks about how Millennials are posed to have a major part in the economic recovery. John Rogers, like many Millennials, strives to keep up with the latest technology and fashion. I’d venture to guess that it is the Millennials that are pumping most of the money into economy. And while I hope that the government begins to recognize that Millennials are going to be a key part of the economy in the near future, there’s something in that article that scares me.
It’s commonly known that individualism and our respective pursuit of happiness drives our day-to-day aspirations. However, this type of bipolar materialism (spending ridiculous amounts of money one day, becoming cheap the next) shown by John Rogers is unhealthy and only promotes a lifestyle based on gain. But it’s not his spending habits that have me recoiling in minor disgust; it’s the fact that he owes $41,000 from his student loans.
That is one of the biggest, and most common, obstacles in front of Millennials today:
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the average student loan debt for the class of 2011 was $23,300.
Considering that college graduates aren’t guaranteed jobs immediately after they graduate, it’s quite plausible that many took up part-time jobs to pay off the debt. Even more likely is that today, a majority of them are still attempting to get rid of debt once and for all. A recent NY times article reads like a horror story, telling the stories of people caught up in more than $50,000 in student debt with no apparent direction in their lives, and no idea of how they got there.
Something Millennials have always asked (or if you haven’t yet, you will be soon) is why exactly college tuition is so high. This stems directly from local and state financing per student (tax-payer money). When that decreases, schools must immediately raise their tuition to fight the rising cost of students. While colleges may be constantly be put in a bad light because of their tuition, it’s not always their fault; at times, we must also consider the state legislatures. Tuition is simply a product of the political environment we live in, and as such, will reflect the state of the economy within its price.
The fact that Millennials can and are going to be a major part of economic recovery is obvious. What doesn’t make sense is if our government and state legislature still expects us to stimulate the economy while drowning in student debt. Some, like the mentioned John Rogers, will. Others, I hope, will not walk such a fine line between living happily and bankruptcy.
And what are politicians saying? For years we’ve contacted our congressmen, signed online petitions and attempted to stop budget cuts to education. It’s slightly placating to see both Obama and Romney talk about education and student loans within their speeches (and to Obama’s credit, his “Pay As You Earn” plan did cut down on the maximum interest for student debt), but as of today, nothing substantial has been done to downsize college tuition. Increasing tuition only hurts the lifestyle (and adversely, their spending habits) of the next generation.
Given the opportunity, Millennial spending could prove very beneficial to the economy. What the government needs to do (whether state or federal) is realize this and act accordingly.
Nathan Chen is a Featured Blogger for Mobilize.org’s The Millennial Report. He lives in Seattle, Washington and thoroughly enjoys the activism-infused setting he lives in. His personal goal is to, in any way possible, gain recognition for The Millennial Generation while also helping it realize its full potential. In the future he wishes to pursue a career in law or journalism, with an intent to serve others.