I have $100,000 in student loan debt. This is a statement I’ve been practicing to myself since I sat down shortly after finishing my graduate program, and calculated the total cost of my education. Three years, all at public, in-state universities, all while working as many part time hours as possible. $100,000. That includes some of the interest I’ll be paying, but not all of it. So if I were a Worst Case Scenario kind of person (and accountants always are) I could round up to $125,000. I paid $125,000 so that I could get a better paying job. That’s the way things work now. You go to school to major in a high-demand, profitable field so that eventually you’ll make enough money to pay back the student loans and then some. I’m currently making very close to the Chicagoland average for starting accountants of $57,000 annually. And I owe at least $125,000 in student loan debt.
Now I should clarify, I’m not complaining or whining about my situation. I chose as a very-much-adult to go back to school, and was only able to do so because I’m lucky enough to have the support and resources of those close to me. I’m in a totally manageable situation of completely my own making. In fact, I’m bringing up the realities of my current economic state for only one reason: to make it clear how very fucked the country is going to be very soon.
See, we’ve gone and fucked younger generations but good. Those millennials we all love to mock for their clothes and music and fidget-spinners despite the fact that some of us are millennials? We’ve made sure their lives will be significantly harder than most of those born since the Great Depression. So, yes, Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, I’m calling you out. That is if you can still hear me and bring yourself to care about anything respectively (come on, you’ve got to allow me a gentle ribbing. I owe $100,000 in student loan debt). What the older generations have created is a perfect economic choke point. School costs more than ever, as do housing costs for both owning and renting. Yeah, you read that right. Grandma and PopPop paid $30,000 in today’s dollars for that sweet Victorian. And those bastards have a pension. And if you’re interested in double-checking any of the math, feel free to use this handy inflation calculator. You might notice that the cost of tuition is growing faster than the average inflation rate? Yeah, turns out that’s true for most things.
So everything costs more now than it did twenty years ago, but wages have essentially remained stagnant. And lifetime earning potential for those of us who opt not to pay exorbitant fees for college is even lower than the already depressed wages of their college grad peers. In order to be successful, young adults have to finish their college degrees, and then pay more of their smaller paychecks as compared to their parents.
It kind of fucking blows, right?
Now, you could argue that just means young people will need to work harder. They’ll have to tighten their belts, and settle for having less. No more avocado toasts, no more Kardashian apps, no more Sunday Fundays. You could try to argue that except, bitch, that’s my point. What a group of people feels another “ought” to do doesn’t apply when we’re discussing the very real and quantifiable disadvantage an entire generation has been put at. The current economic system makes younger people pay more money for fewer things. That is the economic reality most early-to-mid-twenty-somethings are facing. And as our consumer based economy runs out of people to sell things to, we’re all going to be suffering under the financial aid induced recession we brought on ourselves. At least, that is, until the Boomers retire, and their high paying jobs open up.