As a summer camp Program Director, I spend a lot of my time working with college-aged people. In fact, 90% of the people I hire are either currently in college or have recently graduated. That being said, student loans are a big deal when it comes to college students.
Most of the kids I hire were sent to college with the expectation that this would help them to achieve the “American Dream” – whatever that is anymore. If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know how frustrated I get with the idea of the “American Dream” and kids being told that they can do anything if they simply “work hard enough.”
The fact of the matter is this: the only way to achieve the American Dream is by getting lucky – knowing the right people, being born into the right home, or getting the right scholarships. Sure, hard work helps and I’m not saying that those who achieve this so-called “American Dream” don’t work for it, but there’s a little bit of luck that goes into it, too, wouldn’t you say? Maybe “daddy” isn’t rich, but somewhere along the line they made a connection that helped them to get to this place.
No, the “American Dream” is pretty far from the majority’s reach. Instead, there’s an “American Standard” that’s being created and is far from the expectations that are set for today’s youth. This “American Standard” is all the rage: go to college, believe big things, graduate, get a master’s degree, live your life to the fullest while you are young because, as they say, you only live once. In fact, the class of 2016 graduated with more debt than any class in history.
And, it all sounds fine and dandy until you get into the nitty-gritty of it, right? You get into the logistics and that’s where everything sort of turns away from the “American Dream,” right?
Where does the money come from?
Unless you’re born lucky or get some great scholarships, there’s no denying that going to college costs a lot of money. In fact, even attending a public/state school can land you with thousands upon thousands of dollars of student debt.
This is now the “norm” of our society. It’s not a big deal for students to walk up and talk to each other about the tens of thousands of dollars they took out in student loans. The youth of America have a tendency to lean toward the “YOLO” metaphor – even when it means that their future may be uncertain. Why?
Because we have taught them that this is the new “American Standard” and that it’s okay to be in debt. I can’t even tell you how many times I have shared my debt free goals with friends only to hear them reply “Well, it’s not like you’ll ever get out of debt anyway. Why waste your time trying?”
And for some people it’s true: without hard work and a concentrated effort, it can be next to impossible to achieve debt freedom. Look at how many families around the world are living on credit and debt – it’s incredible, isn’t it?
But here’s the thing… It is possible to achieve debt freedom – even if it doesn’t seem that way. It is possible to live up to the “American Dream” – though, perhaps a slightly altered one. It takes work. It takes effort. But it’s possible. And most certainly worthwhile.