It is a tough time to be a high school senior or a college student right now.
In high school, teachers and college recruiters engage students, telling them about the benefits of a college experience. And rightfully so: Aside from gaining unique knowledge from professionals and valuable work and networking experience, the average American with a Bachelor’s degree will earn twice as much more money than the average American with just a high school degree. Also, the ever-increasing demand for college graduates in the workforce means that the career of one’s dreams will require at least a Bachelor’s degree.
But it is coming at a heftier price. 53.6% of all Bachelor’s degree holders under the age of 25 are now unemployed or underemployed, due to the low number of available jobs and the high number of jobless American with many more years of experience vying for those open spots. When we consider the rising cost of tuition, that the average student loan debt is the United States is approximately $25,250 and that – combined – the student loan debt in the United States is close to a $1 trillion, surpassing credit card and auto loan debts, our generation of Bachelor’s degree graduates are in trouble.
Of course, the United States was not the only country hit by this economic recession, but recent college graduates worldwide have been hit the hardest. Students have left their universities with their degrees, ambitious to enter the real world and hoping that their education would leave a mark on the world. Instead, they have faced the harsh realilties of enduing endless rejection letters from jobs and taking low wage jobs they could have bypassed college for, wasting their talents and watching their diploms collect dust to make ends meet. Several articles have openly questioned whether or not students should actually make the effort of going to college if the fruits of their labor are slim. What should a prospective college student do?
College is still essential to success in America. Even for manual labor careers that don’t require a college degree, it is highly recommended to still graduate from college to earn a higher wage and be promoted faster. While there are real success stories of multimillionaires who took risks and created and revolutionized industries without ever receiving a diploma, they are few and far between. The safest bet for any American to even try to get a foot in the door in any industry of their choosing will require them going to college.
Right now, Congress is inching closer and closer to a crucial July 1st deadline on student college Stafford loans that could see interest rates double from 3.4% to 6.8% if no resolutions can be met. An increase at drastic would cripple student’s wallets even more. But it has already ended up as a political pawn. President Obama accused Congress of doing nothing and “playing chicken” with the deadline during a meeting with college students in the East Room of the White House on June 22nd. But as each party debates where the money should come from – Democrats argue that cutting subsidies for oil and gas companies would be the best solution, while Republicans have offered to raise the amount that federal employees have to contribute to their retirement accounts to offset the amount needed to keep the student loan rates low. Several high-ranking officials have already stated that a bipartisan agreement is already in the works to save students.
But it is time to help students afford college and have a more stable pipeline into getting into their dream careers. Last year, President Obama doubled funding for federal Pell Grants, which assisted 10 million students afford to pay off some of the tuition. But if the government is willing to invest tax dollars into helping young Americans earn their college diplomas, only for them to become unemployed or underemployed, letting their expertise and intellect go to waste, then why bother investing in the first place. The hope of these college grants is that graduates can turn around and give back to the world, in the private or public sectors. The government needs to work in tandem with public and private universities to create more academic intervention programs that can get high school students into college and out with not just a degree, but a path to a paying job or higher education. We need to make sure that the best and brightest of America’s youth are going to continue to be the best and brightest of tomorrow and not let them fall through the cracks.
The US government also needs to look to the past, to the era of the New Deal and Roosevelt politics, where public works projects help to invigorate and strengthen America’s infrastructure and cultural works. The nation is in need of a high speed transportation network, internet network, and research into clean energy and other innovations. A modern version of a New Deal could not only put all struggling Americans back to work, but it would provide an alternative to the young Americans tired of being rejected from jobs in the private sector because they are underqualified, lack minimum years of job experience, or were turned away because the job position had already been filled. States, as well, should offer their own minature forms of New Deal programs to improve their state infrastructure and arts programs, so that recent college grads have more options to work with.
These young Americans are an untapped resource with amazing potential. In these past few weeks, the high school juniors that will make up the Class of 2013 have been taking their exams and preparing for fall of this year, when they will be applying for colleges in hopes that they will get to work in the career of their dreams. Whether they want to be scientists and mathematicians, or historians and artists, we should not see them struggle to pay their way through college, becoming severely buried in debt to the point where they must drop out of college to earn more money, or see them finally graduate only to find that no one is willing to take a chance on them. We should not have students at the top of their class waiting tables for the rest of their lives because the lack of career opportunities in their field failed them.
The government needs to offer some well-needed relief for college students so that they can afford to get their diploma. They need to keep interest rates low and offer more financial aid. Colleges as well need to figure out how to keep their tutition costs reasonable. But as important as getting through college, the government needs a program right now that would help all Americans, but would also lure those recent college graduates who were unable to break into their fields because of the struggle to find any work in the public sector. We need engineers, scientists, artists, and thinkers. If the government wants to have a stronger America that is competitive on a global scale, all it needs to do is invest in the youth. Then America’s future will be secure.