The grad trap

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $5 per month!

 Generation Debt: Why Now is the Worst Time to be Young
Youâe(TM)re not a slacker âe" it's the system

Another season of degrees handed out, caps tossed in the air and photos taken with proud parents and teary-eyed friends.

Soon, many of these happy grads will be hearing from the banks through which they financed their dreams regarding the reality of their repayment schedule. A recent Macleanâe(TM)s reported that the average student in hawk owes more than $20,000 and that in this past academic year undergrads paid an average of $4,214 in tuition. Meet the latest members of Generation Debt, the new catchphrase for those under 35 who canâe(TM)t get out of the red.

In Generation Debt: Why Now Is a Terrible Time to Be Young, Anya Kamenetz argues that young people are not âe" contrary to popular opinion âe" all immature slackers with an over-developed sense of entitlement. Rather, the ever-rising cost of education, changes in the work world (where have all the great-paying, full-time jobs with fabulous benefits gone?), and, yes, some unrealistic expectations, mean itâe(TM)s hard to get ahead. These economic realities, she reasons, have larger implications, influencing whether or not we marry, have health insurance or own a home.

The book emerged from Kamenetzâe(TM)s Pulitzer-Prize-nominated series in The Village Voice and, while itâe(TM)s an American book, the broader trend sheâe(TM)s identified certainly applies without too much translation to Canada. (My own student debt story and those of most of the grads I know sadly confirm the similarities.)

To support her case, Kamenetz quotes an array of sources such as the financial guru Suze Orman, and Laurence Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston University and co-author of The Coming Generational Storm. Kamenetz also presents some scary stats. About a quarter of American students are paying for tuition with a credit card. The annual volume of U.S. federal student loans tripled between 1995 and 2005. Young people who get a job right out of high school are the most likely to work for minimum wage; according to the U.S. Census, the poverty rate is highest among 18 to 24 year olds. Overall, annual earnings for those between 25 and 34 went down by almost 20 per cent in constant dollars between 1971 and 2002. Likewise, the Canadian Federation of Students points out that tuition fees have more than doubled in Canada since 1993; the debt load of earning a four-year degree has tripled.

Kamenetz mixes these kinds of hard facts with the stories of people such as âeoeJennieâe who makes $1,000 a month as a day care worker and has no health insurance. Thereâe(TM)s no way she can pay for the dental care she needs. A tooth in the back of her mouth is nearly worn away because it doesnâe(TM)t have a cap and thereâe(TM)s a black cavity in one of her front teeth.

Perhaps in deference to the weighty issues described in Generation Debt, Kamenetzâe(TM)s writing style is straightforward and her tone Earnest âe" âeoeOkay, so weâe(TM)re ready to start a movement. How about more public investment in young people, supporting education, job training, entrepreneurship, and child rearing, for a startâe is about as saucy as she gets.

As for solutions to this problem, her advice ranges from the not-very- doable (âeoeA growing âe~unschoolingâe(TM) movement offers a lucky few children and teenagers âe" from mostly educated, middle-class families âe" the opportunity to escape the regimentation of our often floundering public schools and discover what they really loveâe ) to the ultra-simplistic (âeoeTrue independence starts with living within your meansâe ).

Still, the book is a well-researched account of what the realities of life are for the (credit) card-carrying members of Generation Debt and a worthy starting point for a discussion about young people, education and work âe" something Canadians should invest a little more thought in.âe"Jennifer Oâe(TM)Connor

related items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.