The ‘American Dream’ is unattainable

by Catherine Van Weele, Staff Writer

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The American Dream was once attainable.  

Back in the middle of the 20th century, more than 90 percent of 30-year-olds were receiving higher salaries than their parents had at that age.

Today, that number is down to just 50 percent as social mobility continues to dwindle in the U.S.

Younger generations are faced with tougher financial hardships and growing economic inequality which makes it harder to climb up the social ladder.

One of the most pressing challenges facing the younger generations is the growing $1.5 trillion owed in student loans nationwide.

About 70 percent of college graduates will have student loans to pay off.

According to the Department of Education, the average graduate has about $30,500 in debt, and for some, it takes years to pay back their loans.  

The majority of borrowers will not pay back their loans until their 40s.

Some are now parents who are still paying off their own loans while pulling out more for their children who are entering college.

The high cost of higher education is causing many people to delay big life milestones that are part of the traditional American Dream, including buying a home.

Given the rising cost of houses and the overall cost of living, buying a home would only build more debt for college graduates.

While having a bachelor’s degree significantly increases annual salary compared to people with a high school diploma, it is not enough to pay off loans and start saving away an adequate amount for retirement.

A NerdWallet study concluded that college graduates of 2015 would not be able to retire until the age of 75 due to student loans.  

College loans are not the only form of debt that weighs down on Americans.  

As a nation, there is $1 trillion of credit card debt, $1.1 trillion in car loans and $8 trillion in mortgages.  

These heavy financial burdens make it difficult for many people to save up for retirement and emergency savings.

A survey conducted by the Federal Reserve found that 40 percent of Americans did not have enough to cover $400 in emergency expenses.  

The inability to save and invest in the future is largely due to the stagnation of wages most American workers are experiencing.

While wages have increased in dollar amount, this increase still lags behind inflation which causes purchasing power to decrease.  Americans are unable to consume and purchase at the same capacity as they were a few decades ago.

This means key components of the American Dream like college and home owning are significantly unaffordable to more people.

When accounting for inflation, the cost of attending college today has more than doubled since the 1970s.

Major reforms must be made in order to make the American Dream possible for most people again.

 There needs to be a redistribution of wealth and people need to be paid at least a living wage.

Employers should take the initiative to address wage stagnation by paying their workers a living wage.  

To encourage this, local governments should institute a minimum wage that ensures workers will be able to afford to live nearby their work.

This would also require addressing the housing crisis by reducing the cost of housing.

The government should fund construction for more housing options to increase the supply and therefore reduce the market prices.

 Cheaper housing options would help to reduce the number of mortgage payments Americans are indebted.

Taxes can be used to fund public education, specifically higher learning, would make college more affordable.  

Colleges and universities require more funding to reduce the costs of tuition, housing and other fees.

It would also allow universities to provide a higher quantity and quality of services and resources to their students.

Even for people who already went to college or chose not to go, using tax revenues to fund education would benefit them by building a stronger workforce in the U.S.  

Reducing the national debt of student loans would improve the overall economy by stimulating consumer spending.

Additionally, without the financial burden of loans, college graduates would be able to afford to buy a house, start up their own businesses, and invest in the stock market.

There needs to be a collective effort to provide people with the opportunities to work towards the American Dream.  

This will leave everyone better off by strengthening the workforce and the economy and enriching American life.

Catherine Van Weele is a freshman studying political science.

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