The Generation of Lost Opportunity

I have a new article up at Al Jazeera about why baby boomers should stop lecturing us about how to live in a world that no longer exists. I wrote this article in response to a letter Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust published in the New York Times, in which she extols us to not worry about jobs but instead pursue higher education for a “a lifetime of citizenship, opportunity, growth and change”.

Sounds awesome if you can afford it! Which most Americans can’t:

What is most remarkable about Faust’s career is not its culmination in the Harvard presidency, but the system of accessibility and opportunity that allowed her to pursue it. Her life story is a eulogy for an America long since past.

Let’s review what life was like for an American of Faust’s generation. In 1968, when Faust graduated from Bryn Mawr, tuition and board at a four-year private university cost an average of $2,545. As the scion of a wealthy political family, it is doubtful Faust had to worry about affording tuition, but neither did most members of her generation, since the cost of attending college was relatively low. Today, Bryn Mawr costs $53,040 per year – more than the American median household income.

In 1968, $2,545 was about the most you could expect to pay for college – most schools cost half as much, and many public universities were still free. Faust’s generation graduated with little to no debt, unlike today’s university graduate, who owes an average of $27,000. After graduating, Faust decided to pursue a life of public service and got a job - an actual, paying job, right out of college – with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The hippie movement reached its height in 1968, but it is perhaps difficult for the modern mind to comprehend the desire to “turn on, tune in and drop out” when such a novel option as post-college employment was available. Today’s graduate seeking a career in government often winds up in an internship, where they work full-time for little to no pay…

Read the whole depressing thing at Al Jazeera: The Unaffordable Baby Boomer Dream

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3 Responses to The Generation of Lost Opportunity

  1. Depressing and becoming even more so. My son got his phd from Yale and his wife got hers at Brown. What kind of world are they going to be living in? We worry about that a lot.

  2. David Fulenwider says:

    Wonderful article. I can identify. As a 1966 graduate of Bates College and the first person in my family to hold a college degree, I was sure that the cost of my excellent education was a bargain. I had had the opportunity to study for a year in Japan and learned the language. Upon graduation, I was hired by the C.I.A. and felt reasonably well-compensated. I was only 21!! Later, when I tired of living a covert life, and despite having no connections to the big-city banking world of New York, I was hired by the 4th largest bank in America at that time. Through it all, there was a great sense of accomplishment along with the realization that I had done it all on my own merits. That should be the experience of all young strivers.

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