I just looked at my bank account, and I nearly cried: another 800 dollars deducted. My monthly pound of flesh to the banks and the federal government for my higher education. My monthly sacrifice for making the step I was told was "necessary" for job placement, ascension, and overall financial security. That's the American lie: go into debt so you can rise above it!
In 2003, at the time I enrolled in college, my parents were advised that the combination of my paltry scholarship and loans would "pay themselves off quickly". 8 years after graduation and I am still stressing every month, delaying payments, avoiding calls from the banks if I happen to forget to pay on time or simply don't have the scratch. I've been paying my loans for almost a decade, and my debt is still lingering near 100,000. In 20-25 years, when I turn 50 or 55--and if my income remains steady and I don't get sick or have children or do anything financially extraneous--I will be debt free.
I've been a professional actor for over 5 years, booking over 15 national commercials, so you'd think I'd be flush with cash, right? No. I do well enough to keep my used 1999 Honda Accord running, pay small payments on my credit card (debt from my first year as a struggling actor used to pay utility bills and acting courses), buy groceries, and pay for the astronomically bloated LA rents that continue to rise. I don't really drink. I don't rack up expensive shopping bills. When I travel, it is for work, to visit (and work) with family, or to drive and camp on the cheap. My checks come in waves, and when they do, Uncle Sam takes a hefty fucking chunk to pay for god knows what kind of military vehicle that will probably end up in some storage facility in Baker or to cover some degenerate senator's call girl. Everything revolves around paying these loans.
And it makes me so goddamned angry. Was it a choice? Yes. No one forced my hand so I would co-sign these loans with my parents. But what was I supposed to do? Every elder in my life was advising me to leap for the big film school at USC, the gateway to Hollywood, the guaranteed pearly gates entry into studios and movie stars and shitty traffic and no rain. So what if I had to borrow a little? That was far off, and the big paychecks I read about in magazines pretty much ensured that I'd get some magical giant check a-la Publishers Clearing House and all would be forgotten while I drank a mai thai in Malibu. My parents weren't misleading me--they were being misled.
And all that baby-boomer bullshit about guaranteed dough at the end of the rainbow came crashing down in 2008. Remember that? Yeah, it was only 7 years ago, but at the rate I'm seeing evictions in LA, it might as well have been 100. Prices are going up: gas is near 5 dollars, rent has tripled in some areas of LA, and the scarcity of food and clean water is a boom for the providers--not those that need these basic necessities. I don't know any friend whose base wages have increased. I keep working, doing manual labor, modeling, acting, commercials, construction, woodwork, and selling my photography. Whatever it takes. I have consistent food, shelter and family, and I am damn grateful.
But when I read articles about how millennials are ungrateful and don't appreciate hard work, I wonder if the author is just talking about their co-worker's son and daughter that live off a trust fund and were shitty interns one summer because all they really wanted to do was go to Ft. Tilden and get drunk. Cause that is not me. I don't fuck around, and I hardly do anything to excess because that is not a fucking option.
There doesn't seem to be any end in sight for this student loan crisis. Even now I hear of some private tuitions costing upwards of 60,000 a year and honestly that is a fucking joke. There have been times I felt like killing myself because this debt is never-ending. But if I die the banks will go after my parents. Did you know that? There is no forgiveness for this shit, even in death.
So if you're raising kids and a college fund is out of the question, I suggest you put your pride aside and go for community college. Or school in Europe. And if you're going into the arts, don't even go to college at all. Just audit some of the lectures, move into an apartment nearby and make friends. College is mostly about being social and learning to live outside the parameters of parents.
If you really want millennials to stimulate the economy, then lower tuition prices to reflect the reality of our incomes, which really aren't that high. Or hell, maybe even make some of the schools free. There's a place called Europe (again) that does that to great results, I hear. I can't imagine all of the ways I could have contributed to this country's economic growth if I had the extra 10-12 thousand I pay each year to B of A and the gov't on principal and (mostly) interest. Where does it go?
So don't call me a lazy, ungrateful millennial. I have no retirement. I have no savings. I'm working my ass off to make it work, to take financial risks that reap rewards while still working within a broken system. I didn't break it, and I have every right to bitch about it.