Let me tell you about my most popular tweet.
Yes, I’m a millennial. I am too active on social media and am a part of the most diverse generations in American History, so my opinions are not the same as my parents’. My generation, surprisingly enough, is also more educated. Despite more of us getting college degrees, we aren’t getting that many jobs. Last week, I applied for a position at PetCo and was sent a denial letter. I am on the deans list at UNL, was chosen to study abroad, and have worked at three jobs since I turned 15, and I was denied a position at Petco. The reason this is so ironic is that I’m spending thousands of dollars trying to get an education only to be turned down for a job I’m, quite frankly, overqualified for.
Money was a huge problem for me in college last year. I almost got evicted (twice) from my dorm because I couldn’t pay $3,000 in a month. As a millennial, my friends and I have gotten a lot of flack about wanting free college. I’ve been told that if I want to go to college I should just get a part time job and save up.
Most recently, one man who told me this was a friend of my father, who commented on one of his Facebook posts saying that, “If you can’t afford school, get a student loan and a part time job like I did.” My blood started to boil and before I knew it my fingers were flying across my keyboard. I also made sure I had research backing me.
Assuming this man graduated college around the same time as my father in 1980, one credit hour at UNL for him would’ve been $26.50 for a resident, with the average yearly cost being around $940. A freshman in 2015 had to pay $219.75/credit hour, with our average yearly costs being about $8,279. To pay for college in 1980 (when the minimum wage was $3.10) you’d have to work 303.32 hours the entire year, or just under 6 hours a week to pay for a year of college. To pay for my college in 2016 using a minimum wage job (minimum being $9/hr), I’d have to work 920 hours a year, or 17 hours a week and not spend a penny of it. If you go off of last year’s tuition and minimum wage, you’d have to work 20 hours. Yes, it’s doable, but trying to juggle that much work with classes along with extra curricular activities, and assuming you also need to work a few more hours to pay for things like food and rent (my room and board cost around $10,000), it simply isn’t possible anymore.
I’m on the Deans list and work at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln bookstore at minimum wage. I’m going into a pre-professional field which ensures me a job. I’m doing everything I can to set myself up for success, but at 18 years old I owe the government $8,000. One thing that has changed since high school is my perception of money. I knew going into college that I was going to spend a pretty penny, but there is something different when you actually log onto the government website and see your name and how much you’re going to pay back. When I look at the average starting salary of a teacher in Nebraska and see it being equal to what I’m probably going to end up owing the government, I legitimately panic. I may joke about the crippling debt I’ll have after graduating, but in reality I’m terrified.
I remember move-in day was hectic. My family took two cars and and as I moved my belongings into a glorified broom closet, I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake choosing the oldest dorm on campus, Neihardt hall. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach as I thought about living with some strange girl (from Iowa, of all places) for an entire year. By the end of that year, we were hugging each other and trying not to cry as we packed our things. I learned to make a home out of that broom closet.
I will never regret spending all that money on an education because I believe it’s an investment. I’m just fortunate enough to have a family that can help me with that investment and sees the value of it. For too many people, that’s not the case. 2,514 people on Twitter and 746 people on Facebook have agreed with me. It’s natural to look back on your own college experience and call us lazy, but please do your research before you judge my generation.