By Timia Cobb
Web Content Contributor
The U.S. is $1.4 trillion in debt because of student loans. $1.4 trillion is enough to buy 10 Jeff Bezos’, compensate for the yearly salary of 18 million teachers or end homelessness and hunger in the U.S.
Millennials and Generation Z have to worry about debt more than any generation before, which makes it understandable why we aren’t spending money, popping out kids anytime soon or finding it hard to escape the capitalistic system we’ve grown up in.
Let’s go back to the 1960s when the cost to attend college was between $11,800 and $16,400. In the‘60s, most of the people attending college were white males who paid out of pocket or by using family money. During this period, it was the norm for the only people to attend college to be white elites because they had the time and money too.
The price to attend college started to skyrocket during the civil rights movements in the 60s. This is because of the fight for education for women and minorities. Colleges became more and more available to everyone, resulting in more people wanting to enroll and hoping the government and grants would cover the cost.
Cost grew and more students started to depend on loans to attend college. However, the price to attend a university then was fairly cheaper than what it is now.
We can’t directly judge generations before Millennials and Generation Z for wanting to earn a degree and support their families. However, we can blame them for the increase in college prices and for how the economy is the way it is now.
The average cost today to attend an in-state university is $10,116 a semester and $22,577 a semester for an out-of-state university. Most students will graduate with large amounts of debt that can take years to pay off.
Millennials and Generation Z are starting their careers with the mindset that money is running their lives. They go to college to achieve better lives and gain a career but can spend years of their lives paying off a degree that doesn’t even promise them a job.
Money and debt can influence a lot of things, an example can be not wanting to have kids or waiting longer to get married. The number of births reached a record low in 2017 when only 3.8 million children were born.
According to live science, a health and human behavior website, there were about 60 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2017. When you have generations growing up and being forced to think about money first, they understand that raising a child costs a lot of money.
It’s not that Millennials and Generation Z don’t want kids, but maybe they’re too afraid of not being able to financially support a child.
Having large sums of debt can push back dreams of getting married, retirement or taking vacations. Debt can shape your life, which makes it super hard to escape from. Knowing this, paying off debt can become such a huge goal that people postpone enjoying life and instead plan to start their lives when they are no longer in debt.
Once one debt is paid off this gives the chance to acquire even more debt, such as getting married, buying a house and making a family. This is the system of how money, credit, debt and capitalism work.
Capitalism defined by Merriam-Webster is an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.
A lot of people wouldn’t know what that means because of how professionally jargoned it sounds. To break it down, the definition of capitalism is a system in which countries trade systems, profits, and goods are mainly controlled by private or corporate-owned companies.
This system on paper sounds good and organized but in actuality, it controls millions of people’s lives, which isn’t a good thing.
An example can be Amazon. Amazon as a company is awesome, I can order anything and have it by tomorrow. However, there’s a bigger picture. That item I order has to be packaged, labeled and drove to me from who knows how many states.
Amazon as a corporation is making money but it makes money off the hard work of people who might not be getting paid the wages they deserve, this is capitalism.
The system of Capitalism has made us think that working until you retire or die is OK. That if we work hard enough we’ll be wealthy or be the boss one day when that isn’t always the case. It has also made us think that our jobs come first, not our mental or physical health.
I don’t want to say that the U.S. hasn’t benefited because it has. When it comes to equality, the U.S. has grown from the secluded and unfair country it used to be. However, the U.S. has the problem now of not valuing its working-class and treating human beings like dollar signs.
The US has turned into a country not about recycling money and fulfilling the American dream but a land where the rich hoard wealth while the poor stay poor.
The rich worked to get rich, and are now trying to stay rich and refuse to sympathize with the common worker who is stuck in a capitalistic system that makes it hard to get ahead.
This is the predicament Millennials and Generation Z have found themselves in. The only question left to ask is, how do newer generations fix the broken economic system of the U.S.?
Featured image by Eric Hernandez.