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A Zoomer Wants to Know Why Boomers Are Getting Free College… Again

3 min

The University of Minnesota is using taxpayer and tuition dollars to pay for its new Senior Citizen Education Program, which allows baby boomers to take college classes for a mere $10 per credit.

For younger Americans, this appears ironically cruel. It seems the baby boomers got a free ride through college and life. Now, those of us in the zoomer (Gen Z) and millennial generations are not only footing the bill for Social Security and Medicare, we are also subsidizing boomer retirement hobbies with our tuition and tax dollars. What gives?

The boomers entered a rapidly growing job market in the 70s and 80s. After graduating college, which was practically free at the time, boomers could find work in a number of burgeoning economic sectors. Investment opportunities came effortlessly: 401Ks and Roth IRAs grew during the dot-com boom and many boomers living in suburbs profited from the rapidly increasing values of their homes.

In short, boomers could get a decent job after graduating debt-free and could invest their extra income in the consecutive phases of unprecedented economic growth that occurred throughout the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.

Millenials and zoomers, on the other hand, have been swamped with student loan debt, which has only fueled the mental illness epidemic among young people. Even after we’ve earned our degrees, the idea of making enough money to settle into a suburb like our parents did remains a pipe dream to any young adult who doesn’t have a master’s degree in computer science. Many of the cities we move to for work face high rates of crime and homelessness and the cost of rent devours most of our income. For us younger Americans, unless we can swing a job in the high-tech industry, we’ll likely just mill around as baristas in these sad cities for a few years before returning to grad school or moving back home.

Now, we young Americans must accept responsibility for our own choices regarding what we decide to study, where we choose to live, and other decisions that will directly impact our careers. We can’t all major in underwater basket-weaving and expect to land a six-figure job right out of college. I would ask graciously, however, that older Americans try to understand the lack of agency that young people feel concerning the economy and their careers.

To those of us in the millennial and zoomer generations, it appears as though the boomers were born into a Norman Rockwell painting. We, however, have been given a world that looks more like Blade Runner 2049.

At the University of Minnesota, baby boomers can relive those fast times of the 1980s for 10 bucks per credit. Retired seniors will lounge in lawn chairs on the quad and attend fun elective classes without having to worry about how they will make enough to ever get married or have a family. Their younger classmates, however, are living in a vastly different world; a world of economic anxiety.

On the bright side, having boomers and zoomers take classes side by side provides an opportunity for dialogue that will help bridge the generation gap. Zoomers would do well to ask their new, elderly classmates for advice on how to navigate this challenging economy. At the same time, boomers should attempt to empathize with today’s cynical youth. Perhaps what we need most is an inter-generational Socratic seminar on economics, finance, and career choice.

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[Image Credit: NBC News]

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Chas1958
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"baby boomers got a free ride through college" I don't know anyone except the highly gifted students who got a free ride. We all applied for scholarships, grants and loans, all while usually working a job. Minimum Wage in 1978 was 3.00. We also more often chose the local state school instead of the high priced private ones. We also chose studies in subjects that could actually get us a job after we graduated. And we saved like crazy. And when we graduated we started paying off the debts required right away. Nobody made us go in debt, we took the responsibility for ourselves. You think that Boomers did not experience economic anxiety in the 70s and 80s. But the one thing you really need to consider is - nothing is Ever free. It's a shell game and i will guarantee you that the University is making bucks on having Boomers fill their classes.
 
 

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Zacklear1997
This sounds great and all but it doesn’t seem like you used your affordable college from the 70’s and 80’s to read the article. As a person born in 1997, I cannot actually go to school because of the economic class I was born into. I physically cannot make enough money to go to a local four year college, because the debt I will go into makes college more harm than good. The economy is absolutely ruined for my generation and the generations to come, and I still can’t go to college for $10 a cred.
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