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.
[Image Credit: NBC News]