How Millennials Are Discovering Their Degrees Hold No Value

by Brighid Constable

When I was in fourth grade (think: 1994), my ears were glued to my parents’ bedroom door. They hadn’t announced their divorce to our family of five children just yet.

I was only 9 years old, so I couldn’t full comprehend what the two were arguing about.

I just remember my mother, who at the time was the dean of general education at a for-profit university with a BA and MA in English under her belt, crying and saying, “How are we going to pay for their college education?”

She wanted her children to live a debt-free life after receiving our undergraduate degrees. My father, with his graduate degree in economy, ironically countered, “They’ll have to take out student loans; they'll be just fine.”

Today, I am $108,000 in debt solely from student loans from my undergraduate and graduate degrees from brand-name state universities.

I have the masters my parents wanted for me, but I am 30 years old and make $48,500 in a profession so far unrelated to my graduate degree in teaching because I couldn’t afford my monthly student loans from that profession. Every month, I pay $900 to slowly chip away at that staggering number.

Instead, my graduate degree landed me in a corporation managing social media, far from where I ever imagined I would work.

I'm in a field where I’m savvy, thanks to the 1990s dot com boom and my ability to understand the use of hashtags.

While college-educated people do stand a better chance of landing jobs than those who don’t attend, the time it takes to pay back the loans for a degree is growing at a disgustingly rapid rate.

And, it's proven to land people in worse situations after college, due to the astronomical number of Millennials who need to repay after graduation.

US News and World Report reported the average student today leaves college with $25,250 of student loan debt.

About a year ago, the nation’s cumulative student debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time. With the most recent reports, student loan debt is poised to climb to a shocking $1 trillion by the end of 2015.

Our nation is now questioning the plausibility of attending college.

Is it worth the loads of debt, especially in an economy where the job market has been stumbling from instability under the last 10 years?

Are Millennials as well-versed in financial literacy as they should be? Or, is the hoorah of the American college tradition fading from the eyes of our parents?

So what’s the problem, fellow Millennials? We listened to our equally educated parents and teachers who have undergraduate and graduate degrees, who told us if we studied, worked hard, accomplished extra-curricular activities, studied abroad in college and were close to our graduate professors, we would succeed in life.

We heard life after college would be a breeze if we are educated, but that's far from the truth.

Craig Brandon argues that employers of college graduates even admit that degrees are “worthless pieces of paper.”

Parents who have a higher education are quick to give their experiences to their children, but the truth is, the US economy is vastly different than it was 20 or even 30 years ago during our parents' prime.

Brandon states, “Many of these ‘college graduates’ are functionally illiterate, unable to do basic math and have a minimal understanding of economics or how our government operates.

So it is not surprising that even if they land a job, they don't keep it long.”

Our parents and teachers didn’t mean to lie; they had good intentions modeled after the economy of their generation.

They, however, just didn’t realize that the US government is solving its debt problem by pawning so much of it off to Millennials, we won’t be able to pay it back until we reach retirement.

That’s a terrifying thought.

It seems like the only way or reason to attend college is to enter the corporate world where you navigate a system of politics, charmingly known as the Assh*le Factory.

And even then, the skills you need to encompass mainly include a strong emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) rather than an intelligent quotient (IQ), the latter of which is honed in (you guessed it!) college.

It seems like throwing money at the collegiate system is setting educated people up for failure and to live a life in debt and perpetual stress, with the sole purpose to pay back their loans.

How can we live the life we want to achieve if Millennials live paycheck to paycheck, slowly climbing up the corporate ladder and as Brandon mentioned, "functionally illiterate?"

Something needs to change.

If I had to pull a Marty McFly, I would have invested in a degree that pays a lucrative annual income in order to reimburse my student loans.

And graduate school? Forget it.

I’d much rather live a comfortable life that models my morals instead of my struggle with student loan debt from paycheck to paycheck.