UC Davis engineering students (Photo: Kevin Tong/UCD)
Hannah Cranston lives in Los Angeles and is the host and executive producer of YouTube’s ThinkTank a news and talk show aimed at Millennials with more than one million subscribers. She weighs into our Elevate CA discussion and how to improve upward mobility for millions of Californians.
Millennials are entitled. Or so they say.
But what does entitled really mean? To those in other generations who use the word as a slur to denigrate the largest generation currently living in the United States, it means that millennials, or Generation Y, feel as though they are inherently deserving of certain privileges or special treatment: a participation medal, get-rich-quick scheme, or a selfie worth one million likes. To millennials, entitled means so, so much more.
When you attempt to list off the privileges and “special treatment” that millennials have received as they’ve come of age in California, you may find yourself hard-pressed with the harsh reality that Gen Y hasn’t quite struck gold yet in the golden state.
In fact, 38 percent of California’s 18 to 34-year-olds are still living at home, not because they want free laundry or are obsessed with their moms’ meatloaf, but because they cannot afford rent or housing. As many of us know, the cost of living has skyrocketed in California in recent years, especially in larger cities, but millennial bank accounts have yet to follow suit. Aside from the fact that many millennials entered the workforce during or directly after the Great Recession, Generation Y has been plagued with two major obstacles that prohibit them from fulfilling their full potential as earners and contributors: overwhelming student loan debt and stagnant wages — a lethal combination.
As of 2015, the average amount of debt for a Californian grad was $22,191 and the minimum wage was $9.00 an hour. With interest rates and high unemployment rates, millennials have been left with a Catch-22 of attaining higher education as a means to earn more, yet be saddled with exorbitant tuition fees and mounting student loan debt, or enter the workforce after high school with the daunting reality of an unlivable wage. How do we solve this? How do we make it possible for young people in California, from all socio-economic backgrounds, to attend college AND be able to succeed in life?
The answer is free college tuition.
Free college tuition to California’s public schools would allow students from all walks of life to have access to higher education, to be protected from the burden of debt, and to have the chance to fulfill their full potential. College tuition, in its current state, tells students that only those who can afford it themselves or who can shoulder the debt post-graduation should receive an education. We tell children that education is the key to success, yet that that key will cost you $35,000, if you live in-state, and nearly $60,000, if you are from out-of-state.
New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee are all moving towards plans for free college tuition and we need to join them. New York has told its young students that if their family makes less than $100,000 a year, public college is free of cost for them. The small state of Rhode Island has told their students that community college is completely tuition free, regardless of their income. As the largest economy in America, the state of California can afford to put a free public college tuition plan into motion, because it cannot afford to let its young people fall behind.
So are millennials entitled? Yes, yes they are. Millennials are entitled to an education and to the chance to succeed in the great state of California.
Elevate CA is a discussion of how to address the expansion of the middle class in California. There are 18 million Californians who live in or near poverty, a topic that will be featured at the California Economic Summit on November 2-3 in San Diego.
For what other California leaders are saying about the issue, click here.