At a White House College Affordability Briefing, Vice President Joe Biden called today’s young Americans an “incredible generation” and a “bright and talented group of men and women”. Yes, our VP thinks you’re incredible, bright, and talented. Now before you get too full of yourself, (plus I think he was looking directly at me when he said it) he also called you out. He called all of us out, to speak up for college affordability.
I was pretty excited to receive and invitation from Women Working to Do Good and Hello Giggles BFF Ronnie Cho to be a part of the White House College Affordability Briefing. As someone who’s been out of college a year this is an issue that impacts me and almost everyone I know.
College affordability has also been a priority for the current administration and unfortunately in this election year also a point of attack. Before I go any further, I’d like to throw it out there that I’m a registered Independent and try to approach every issue with an open mind, hearing out both parties. You can think of me as a Switzerland, and if you give me a shot and listen objectively I will reward you with chocolates, multi-purpose pocketknives, and a place to store your millions.
Unfortunately it may be a very long time before you make millions because if you’re like a lot of young Americans you may be paying off college debt foreverrrrr. Right now Americans owe more on their student loans than on their credit cards. This is the first time that has ever happened and guess what? It’s a big deal!
Math is not really my thing. The only math I took at the University of Florida was math for liberal arts majors. We did fractions and the class was full of athletes. (Aaron Hernandez, what’s up? Long time no see. Sorry about the Super Bowl, man.) But even with my limited math education I can see a trend that doesn’t really add up. The unemployment rate for people with a college degree is 4.1%, half the national average. Those who finished college make double what people who did not graduate high school make, yet the cost of college is rising and states are cutting funding for higher education. It looks something like this:
College = less unemployment
College = greater salary
States are subtracting funds for college
Cost of college now > than ever before
Maybe Aaron Hernandez and I can reunite and he can explain this to me because right now I don’t get it. I’ve also only taken one business class, but I know investing in education is an investment in our economy.
At the briefing, the administration filled us in on a few initiatives they’re working on to make college more affordable. They’re also working to prevent rates on subsidized student loans from doubling on July first. And that’s where the Vice President is looking to you to get involved. He asked us to call our representative telling them not to double rates on student loans. You can also take to twitter using the hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate
I think our generation gets a bad rep sometimes. But I believe that we’re not afraid to be thrown into a sink or swim situation. We’re willing to work long hours and eat ramen noodles until we make it. But if you throw us into the roughest seas this country has seen in decades with thousand pound weights shackled to our legs, we will probably drown.
I believe every American poor, rich, Democrat or Republican deserves the chance to go to college. But that won’t happen until we all believe in it.
The Vice President believes in us. He said, “I give you my word as a Biden, I am more optimistic about your future, more optimistic about this country than I’ve ever been in my whole life. Not because of Barack and me, but because of what you all are made of, man.”
I know we can live up to Vice Presidents Biden’s expectations of us. Our generation can be known as the one to overcome partisanship and that worked together for each other. Generations before us may have put a man on the moon and brought down the Berlin Wall, but we can be the ones to help each other get a fair shot at an education and future.
In a very moving moment during the briefing, Vice President Biden told us how his very proud father was reduced to feeling ashamed because he could not get a loan to pay for his son to go to college. It made me think of all the people I know who are struggling to pay college debts or passing up on great schools or unpaid internships because their families can’t afford them.
So forget what I said about me being Switzerland (sorry about the chocolates, guys). I still consider myself an independent thinker, but Switzerland is neutral and I don’t want to be neutral on this issue. I want to stand up with Democrat and Republican young Americans to ensure that college and a bright future is something we can all work towards. Because I think Joe Biden is right, we’re incredible, bright, and talented, and my greatest take away from the briefing is a renewed sense of optimism in what our generation will do.
Image by Lee Ziesche