A few months ago, when I finished the News Cut on Campus “tour,” I wrote this piece: Optimism, pessimissm, and the college graduate.
A writer I very much admire, Lane Wallace of The Atlantic, wrote about that piece today on her online column.
Perhaps Minnesotans are particularly good at accepting life in all its uncertainty and challenge. This is a place, after all, where it’s been known to snow in every month of the year, and people have to shovel their roofs as well as their walks. I’m not kidding. I’ve done it, myself. If you want an easy ride in life, with palm trees and year-round sunshine, you don’t settle in Minnesota. But whatever the reason, Collins’ advice is a valuable reality check–not only on the current economic situation, but on how all of us, media included, can or should respond to it.
But it was a comment from — I presume — a young ‘un that got my attention:
Sure the challenges of adulthood are nothing new, but who over 50 graduated college with $50k in student loans and credit card debt? When you’re starting out with that kind of burden, never mind the recession, of course there’s anxiety. It has nothing to do with the abstract future or achieving your dreams. It’s the present, and working for $110 a week or its modern-day equivalent won’t cut it. Collins’ advice and this post basically ignore that for a lot of recent graduates, there’s no time not to be conservative and risk averse. But if you’re 50, established and debt-free, well I guess it’s fair to look back and wonder if you could have been more care-free, too.
.. and so I responded…
Let’s do the math on that. Let’s see, I graduated (1976) with $4,000 in debt and a job that paid $5,720 a year. My debt was 69% of my annual salary.
The average student loan debt last year was not, in fact, $50,000, it was $21,899. The average income for graduating seniors in 2007 was
$60,000 $46,000, making the total debt 36.5% 47.6% of annual salary.
Are there exceptions? Of course there are. But my point is a simple one to today’s kids: You’re not the exception you think you are. It’s the last thing you will likely learn as part of your college education: Some people do know what they’re talking about. The best way to get ahead of the game, is to listen.
But you’re right, $110 in today’s dollars — which would be $400 a week — isn’t going to cut it. But here’s what you don’t understand: It didn’t cut it then, either.
That’s the point: We weren’t entitled then. You’re not entitled now.
Go forth, work hard, experience life. Make yourself special.
Graduating seniors: What are you expecting the world owes you starting next month?