I just watched the coolest thing. Michele Obama rapping with Jay Pharoah in a bid to encourage young people aged 14-19 to prioritize college. It’s part of the ‘Better Make Room’ campaign and its merits are real. College does make a difference, if not to improve a young person’s knowledge and skills but to give them a leg up on other candidates for jobs where an education is a tick in the ‘acceptable for this position’ box. What’s really cool about this video is how seriously fun it is to see Mrs. President doing her thing. She is one suave lady, and I can’t imagine anyone else pulling this off.
But as I was watching it I did think - has it occurred to her (of course it has) and everyone else that maybe the reason young people aren’t prioritizing college is because of the cost? It’s expensive to get an education in this country, I don’t care what school you go to. And yes, you can make the case that once you graduate with that coveted degree you are much more employable and in a stronger position to pay that nasty student loan off. But are you, really? Young people are facing a wealth gap of massive proportions. No use going too far down that line in this piece and blaming the Boomers for setting up our youth to fail (I’m a Boomer, born in 1963), but the truth is, turning that debt into gain is going to be tougher as the years go. Say what you want about the uptick in the economy, young people are not facing a fat future.
There is also the other concept. Does an education pay? Well, I think it does for all the obvious reasons. But there are a whole host of young men and women that have bucked this system and jumped on the ‘start-up’ train. And why not? With crowd funding options and great case studies out there, never mind Shark Tank, the allure of hitting it big with the next Facebook doesn’t seem so far out of reach. Plus, it might be more fun than going to college.
Here’s the thing…
I think an education is priceless on one hand and yet way too expensive on the other. I’m not sure how to fix it, but if I was faced with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt before I even reached the ripe age of 25 I might turn up my nose at school too. I hope our elected officials can start figuring out how to make it affordable for young people to learn because if they don't, no amount of ‘room’ is going to help our youth forward.