By BRITTANY WALDER
They were hailed as the “blessed” generation. For one, this generation has had access to more information than ever. They grew up amid the development of the Internet and the fall of communism, and did so in an increasingly smaller world where tolerance became essential in order to interact with the myriad of cultures they were exposed to daily. This generation has been more socially and environmentally aware, and has seen a drastic decrease in traditional gender roles. They have been slated as more collaborative, and despite a high divorce rate among their parents, reportedly have closer-knit families than their parents and grandparents did.
Their relatively few numbers led some experts to believe that their technological literacy, social skills, and unwillingness to settle would put them in high demand with employers. They were raised with the conscious realization that they had control over their destinies. This was until the 2008 financial crisis.
Generation Y is now, according to Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times, “in the midst of an economic crisis that confirms the worst fears of [its] members, namely that their baby boomer parents are leaving them a world convulsed by war, drowning in debt, and melting under global warming.”
Their once promising futures are now uncertain.
According to USA Today Magazine, almost half of college students will owe over $10,000 in student loans, the average of which is $19,000, after graduation. It will take an estimated 15 years for these loans to be paid off, putting students in debt into their 30s. The average Gen Yer also tends to owe at least $5,000 on credit cards before the age of 25. This all comes after the fact that this cohort of individuals spends approximately 15% more than any other generation.
“It’s a pity that 40% of college graduates owe a lot of money in loans and debts,“ said John Toth, 19, a sophomore at CCC, “it’s even more sad that more than half of them will claim bankruptcy, get out of debt, and never work it off.”
Generation Y now faces the shifting plates of academics. College is no longer an option to increase expertise in a field; it is an absolute necessity. For this group of young adults entering the dwindling job market, the associate degree is essentially the new high school diploma.
“ I do see the associate’s as the new high school diploma. An increase in demand for standard education has risen, but overall customer service and human relations has decreased,” said Elizabeth Mujica, 30, a Cumberland County College student. “The workplace has now been overtaken by a bunch of people who completed book work requirements, but lack basic communication skills.”
The question is, when faced with their first economic recession, and what has been called one of the worst economic crises in memory, experts are wondering how this burgeoning group of young adults will fare. How will this group that has been conditioned to harbor unrealistic expectations react to being laid off from a job they have only recently started? More importantly, what will they do to help the situation? This, after all, is the generation that permeates with the belief that “work” and “life” are two separate realms. How are they going to cope with longer work hours and less flexibility, and how are they going to help the country out from under the oppression of debt?
Many people feel that Generation Y is more focused on the here and now as opposed to the future. Its members grew up during a time of virtual economic security. Older generations are now looking to the younger generation to fix the financial mess, and lead the country back to stability.
“I think it will be like any other generation,” Mujica said. “There will be those who work hard to be successful, and those who ask for handouts when the going gets tough.”
The situation does not appear to be completely hopeless. Many young people are at the very least thinking about what they can do to improve their future.
Toth said, “Generation Y is in big trouble, especially in America. We’re in so much debt because the government keeps spending money to try to ‘fix’ society. We need our government to shrink as much as it possibly can, leave society to the people, and guide us on the principle that people can take care of themselves.”