Four-hundred student leaders of all political persuasions rallied on Capitol Hill recently, demanding public investment in higher education. They held a press conference and conducted 100 congressional visits. Their message?
That's right. WTF. Where's the Funding?
In the 1950s, college was practically free. Some of our parents and grandparents were able to attend a four-year state college for just $1,000 per year. That's tuition, room and board. This investment in education produced one of the greatest workforces in history and helped to create America's great middle class.
Today all we hear about is cuts, cuts and more cuts. You can't cut your way out of a recession. And you can't cut your way to growth. The way to get out of a recession and get out of debt is the same strategy our grandparents used to get out of the Great Depression: Invest in jobs. Invest in education. Invest in infrastructure and technology. Put people back to work. Stimulate the economy. Grow the tax base. That's how you cut the deficit. Not by cutting investments in jobs and education.
The Millennial Generation (born 1980-2000) is the largest, most diverse, most open-minded, most tech-savvy, most eco-conscious generation in American history. Millennials are also the most unemployed, in debt and generally screwed over. Despite their desire to contribute to this country's greatness, Millennials may be the first generation in decades to face worse economic prospects than our parents and even grandparents.
Millennials deserve better. The Millennial generation can help lay the foundation of American prosperity by driving a vibrant green energy economy; reinventing and rebuilding our infrastructure; galvanizing the immense potential of the private sector through fresh innovation and creativity; contributing to a broadened tax base; and answering JFK's call to service.
The youth unemployment rate is double the national average, with African-Americans between 16-24 shouldering a crushing 33 percent unemployment rate. Latino and Asian youth suffer from above average unemployment rates as well. The average college student borrower graduates nearly $25,000 in debt; Americans now owe more in student loan debt than credit card debt.
To make matters worse, Congressional Republicans are insisting on slashing $875 from the maximum Pell Grant award, effectively ending thousands of struggling students' college education. In 43 statehouses, budgets are being balanced on the backs of students and working families through tuition hikes, funding cuts, or both. The supposed beneficiaries of these cuts? You guessed it. Youth and future generations. Not only are they stealing kids lunch money. They're saying it's for their own good.
What will the Millennial Generation do? What young people always do: Innovate and fight back. Students are piloting new attention-getting tactics like Briefcase Brigades. On their upcoming national action April 27, youth and students across the country will dress up for job interviews, some with briefcases, and visit local offices of members of Congress. They will ask their elected reps to stop cutting education and jobs. Photos and videos will be posted in social media. Briefcase Brigades will be followed by graduation actions. Summer actions will build up to bigger actions in the Fall.
Young people and students aren't asking for any special favors or handouts. They just want the same opportunities that the Baby Boomers and other previous generations had: The opportunity to work hard, get an education, make a living and give their kids a better life. In short, a chance to live the American Dream.
The jobs and education crises are two of the biggest issues impacting young people. If you want to join the growing youth movement for education and jobs, please watch this video and sign up for a local Briefcase Brigade here.