Editor Column: The kids are more than alright
Lazy and entitled are two stereotypes commonly affiliated with my age group, millennials.
Those traits and how they became widely hoisted upon those of us born between 1980 and 2000, which is how Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research defines millennials, kept resurfacing in my mind this past weekend.
High school graduation season is in full swing, and after covering a second year of commencement ceremonies for Garfield School District Re-2, I have to concede my admiration for the young adults here in the area. Obviously, the students recognized at these events are at the top of their class.
However, reading through the graduation pamphlets and seeing the number of students who received this scholarship offer or that grant is impressive. Additionally, this job has afforded me the opportunity to meet some of these teenagers in the past year — ones who were not recognized this past weekend.
They, just like the graduates singled out on Sunday, are involved in multiple activities and despite, at times, coming from less than ideal situations, they have clearly defined career aspirations.
These kids, some of the last who can be considered in the millennial generation, are anything but lazy. Additionally, I would have a hard time using the word entitled to describe the numerous local students who will be attending Colorado Mountain College while working full-time, in an effort to save some money on continued education that is becoming more expensive and increasingly crucial to thriving — or surviving — in the professional world.
Listening to the accolades and accomplishments, I cannot help but try and remember when I was in these young people’s position. My name was not synonymous with academic achievements, scholarships or athletic honor.
Truth be told, I was what most people would probably call a burnout. My grades were mediocre at best and my only school-related involvement outside of the classroom and disappointing two-year football career came in the form of detentions and Saturday schools.
I did not spend the summer after high school preparing for college. Instead, I worked and joined a softball team that had a reputation for being the drunkest at the ball field, despite the fact that the entire team consisted of 18-year-old kids.
About this time last year I wrote about how I wanted to forgo college and pursue a “career” at the beer distributor I worked at that summer. To sum it up, I was an uninspired and aimless 18-year-old who partied on the weekends and had little to no achievements or experiences to brag about.
And here I am.
Coming back to my original thought, I have to wonder where the generational stereotypes come from. The only conclusion I can come to is: older people. Strangely enough, one person who I have never heard utter the so-called Millennial stereotypes is my father. Actually it’s quite the opposite. He is quick to point out how much tougher it is today.
Mistakes that were ignored or overlooked when baby boomers were coming of age are now harshly punished, and employers are increasingly unwilling to look past those blemishes on one’s record. And, the record is as expansive as ever thanks to the explosion of the web and social media platforms.
Meanwhile, the cost of an education has steadily climbed. Tuition and fees at a public four-year institution in 1980-81 was $2,320 (in 2015 dollars) compared to $9,410 in 2015-16, according to the College Board.
As the price continues to rise, the importance of continued education also continues to increase (Bloomberg ran this headline around this time last year: “The Value of a College Degree is More Obvious Than Ever”). That story cited a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce that found while college-educated workers made up 34 percent of workers, they earned 53 percent of wages in 2012.
All of this amounts to more people seeking college degrees, and consequently taking on more debt. In its report “Student Debt and the Class of 2014,” the Institute for College Access & Success made this key finding:
“About seven in 10 (69 percent) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2014 had student loan debt, the same share as in 2013. These borrowers owed an average of $28,950, up 2 percent from the 2013 average of $28,400. About one-sixth (17 percent) of the class of 2014’s debt was comprised of private loans, which provide fewer consumer protections and repayment options and are typically more costly than federal loans.”
I point to these adverse conditions not as an excuse, but as a point of optimism, because the truth is all of these factors have been trending in the current direction for sometime — certainly back to when I was graduating high school.
If an aimless burnout can work through his own difficulties and the larger societal ones, then I have the utmost faith that most, if not all, of our recent graduates can find happiness and success. However, I’ll be the first to admit that I am where I am today because of the help and support from many people.
We all need to be that support for our recent graduates because their success is our success, and their failure is our failure.
Ryan Hoffman is editor at The Citizen Telegram. You can reach him at 970-685-2103 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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