Millennial Burnout


I 100% agree that college debt is a huge issue and factor here. I was of the generation that got to go to state schools for a pittance (though in my case the VA did pay my way due to my father’s service-connected death, not a method of college funding I’d recommend). I think actual tuition per quarter was in the hundreds of dollars, rather than thousands. I had zero debt coming out of undergrad or my first stint in grad school; after my Ph.D. years later (early nineties) I had maybe three thousand in debt, total.

Contrast that with my students today, who attend a school where tuition, room, and board total $53k/year sticker price, and who on average spend 4-5 years in school. They almost always graduate with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, which weighs on them like a millstone.


It’s a double whammy. College is more expensive and it does less for you. I really think more kids should go to community college and get some basic classes out of the way and then transfer to a four year school. They could save a lot of money. College Algebra, Basic Composition – does it really matter where you take those? You’re probably getting an adjunct teaching you regardless.


I was an RA my senior, and a far number of students I had in my apartment complex were Juniors that completed their associates degree in the local community college. Man, that sounded like a good idea, especially how crappy my first two years of college were (I was a late bloomer when it came to studying and maturity. Some might say I still haven’t bloomed).


I have definitely urged people to go the community college route. I was an RA as well, which helped reduce the student loan debt for 1 year of free housing/food.

I saw a lot of kids crash and burn because they had no idea why they went to college. I feel like our generation was the one of college as high school years 5-8. Everyone went to school, even if you didn’t know what you wanted to do. During my orientation we had a lot of people explain how they changed thier major multiple times, and it was funny! They eventually found the end of their journey after their first year or so of college. (no mention of the additional costs of summer classes or an extra semester or 2 tacked on)

I think this is part of why my generation is so burnt out right now, because you have so many young people who went to college to end up in careers that could be filled by low-skilled H.S. graduate level workers. You have the baristas and waiters and gig economy workers who work along side people with no college, saddled with 30-50k in college loan debt.

I think this is fairly unique to my generation. In previous generations college was cheaper, for sure, but it was much more of an option for those motivated for a career that a college degree could bring. Right now I think people just go to college because it is the thing you are supposed to do.

If you are a young person who has no clue what they want to do post high school, I would heavily recommend going to a community college to get some transferrable credits out of the way, take some courses on subjects you might be interested in, and find a passion. Don’t spend money finding out what you want to do at an expensive 4 year college or university.

This is, of course, difficult for a lot of middle class kids. College is where all of the cool kids went, where the dorms are, the parties, the drinking, the large mass of kids in your same age group. Where you can hook up and drink and make tons of friends. Community and technical colleges don’t have the same feel, and I can get the desire to have that college experience at age 18.

I think it is that double whammy of increased costs/debt and lack of employment power a 4 year degree carries now.


I really wish we (as a society) didn’t put so much emphasis on college and higher education. It’s not for everyone and there are so many jobs that pay decently that require trade/vocational training rather than anything college teaches (electricians, plumbers, welders, medical coding, front-office staff at doctor/dentist offices, etc…). But we have propped up the idea that if you don’t go to college you are a failure, so you end up with a lot of people getting majors in completely worthless degrees like communication and psychology (the latter is only useful if you go onto masters or higher).


Yep, I bounced off of college my first try because I wasn’t ready for it (I still hadn’t dealt with a bunch of personal shit that happened in late high school, but also I was just emotionally not mature enough at 17). But you basically had to go to college. It wasn’t so much an expectation as a bedrock fact of life.

After getting my shit together and deciding that I actually wanted to go for me, it went a whole hell of a lot better. Obvious enough in hindsight, but I needed to live it to learn the lesson.


I can assure you this is not unique to millennials. I spent my first two years bouncing between advisors and low level classes. Finally ended up with a masters degree in accounting because, to paraphrase, as an accountant I could always find a job. Though I haven’t worked in that field since 1998.


I’m technically a baby boomer (born in 64) and I dropped out after my sophomore year because I had no idea what I wanted to (still don’t) but went back a few years later to complete my degree.

BUT the notion that education is “worthless” unless it’s training for a job is depressing. Education is intrinsically valuable IMO. College shouldn’t be just to churn out automatons for corporate America.


Ha, that was almost exactly my exact course. Except I need to tack on dropping-out instead of getting the accounting degree that didn’t interest me at all. I totally went to college with no idea what I was doing there except my parents told me I was supposed to and all my friends were doing it. Thankfully I went to the local university at in-state rates so the student debt was minimal and cleared up within a decade of entering the workforce.


I don’t think people disagree but college is optional, super duper expensive, and costs a person years of their life they could be working. So until society decides to fund this education for everyone, individuals need to look at the mega costs and make a rational decision as to whether it makes sense for them. Which means taking a long hard look at what fields are economically rewarding before enrolling. Anything else is irresponsible.

Well, except for the idle rich. They can piss away money going to college to become a “well rounded person” or whatnot.


I think that is a key factor, those of you of an older disposition who went to college with unclear expectations had a far less onerous cost to deal with. Doing that with costs in the $10-15k range is far less debilitating than the $35-40k range.

@JonRowe is right about the generational expectation. And the community college thing is truly good advice, but it was considered inferior when I graduated. It was here the unsuccessful kids went. It was what you did when you couldn’t snuff it at univerity. The classes weren’t as good, and it would be harder to get into a good college. If you’re a smart kid and go there, you must be lazy.

These are the things I was told, explicitly or implicitly, and that my peers and I believed. And as someone in the top of his class I truly believed community college was beneath me.

Irony being that I did actually wind up taking a bunch of community college classes in the end.


You don’t need to go to college to learn stuff.

If you want to learn stuff for fun, do that… but if you are paying someone to teach you stuff, you should probably make sure you are getting a return on your investment for that.


Yeah, education of course carries its own intrinsic value but you’ve got to look at the cost, which is really ballooning in recent years.

I had to mainly self-fund my own college career, through a useful tripod of scholarships, grants and loans. If I recall correctly I had about ten grand in loans at the end of college and grad school. Also paid off over ten years. Compared to stories I’ve heard, I guess I got off easy.


I think community college is a good choice for people with the intent to move on but only if they’ve received clear advice as to how these classes will transfer out.

If colleges like to do anything it’s play Prestige Games, and accepting or denying transfer credits is the way this happens. If a student has been accepted to a big university, but elects to go to community college for the initial classes, she still might have to move since her local classes may well not transfer.

CC is also a decent choice for students not at all committed to a college education yet - but i worry if that student can get anything out of CC if they’re indifferent.

CC classes often vary wildly in value not just by CC but by professor. It’s hard to blanket agree or disagree with CC since there is such a huge variance in quality. But that quality often gets blurred away in the process of transfer. The experience of CC is often quite different as well, for better or worse, depending on that student’s expectations and needs. Many CCs have much tighter support from the community than their larger State colleges; but they might also be the College of Last Resort.


These are not worthless degrees. There is no such thing as a worthless degree so long as it is from an accredited, actual school and not one of those money mill for profit schools.

It’s not worthless. It really depends on what you want to do and how you sell yourself.


I think maybe the idea of entering college without a clue of what you want to do isn’t unique to my generation for sure, plenty of that in the boomer generations as well.

But I think there are 2 factors that differ in the millennial generation.

  1. College enrollment spiked 54% from 1990 to 2011.
  • This was due to the increasing amount of education in the country, and a lot of kids of middle class families able to send off their kids to college thanks to student loan assistance and the general popularity of college, making it affordable (with loans) for most kids that desired it.
  1. Massive increase in tuition costs
  • With the boom in enrollment came growth in the marketplace, more schools, more amenities required to attract the massive pool of applicaants. With this came higher tuition costs and bigger student loan amounts. (This is why college admissions have slumped recently, costs simply got too high)


So, for your average boomer or gen-x person who aimlessly went to college and dropped out or got a basic communications degree, you weren’t out 30-50k in loans you needed to repay. For some boomers, like my father, they paid for their tuition through summer employment. Going to college when you didn’t need to is always costly mistake, but for my generation that mistake is a crippling amount of debt now.

I mean, student loan debt itself is really just a gen-x/milennial thing

You go from half of all students needing student loans for college in the 90’s to near 70% of all students taking out loans.

And earnings for young people is down, historically (mostly do the the financial crash of 2008/2009


So, while there are similarities to be had between the Gen-X college crowd and Millenials, the massive increase in student loan debt vs slow wage growth has crunched our generation in a very unique way.


This is an important consideration, and at least where I am located, the state community colleges and technical schools have pretty strict transfer requirements for courses. If you took it in the community college and transfer to a state school, the credits have to transfer. It is one reason it is such an attractive option. (if you end up going to a private college or out of state, you have this issue). But definitely something to be very aware of.


It’s definitely something that can be beneficial to navigate.

Where you get into trouble is if you don’t have someone to help you navigate. If ou are the first person in your famlily to go to college, as I was, then they don’t always know the questions to ask. And so you can wind up, through naïveté, making costly mistakes and taking non transferring classes. Which wastes both time, and money.


I agree but education doesn’t need to cost you $80,000 in loans unless you have a reasonable expectation of paying off that debt within 10 years based on the job you are likely to get.

There are a lot of sources of cheap or free education available if you want to learn for learning’s sake. You don’t need to go into debt just to learn. You go into debt because you expect to land a better job as a result and earn more during your lifetime. Once college begins to fail to deliver on that, a lot of the economic value of a degree disappears.


80k isn’t even that high.

2018–19 Undergraduate Cost of Attendance

Residents Nonresidents
Tuition and fees
Based on typical undergraduate enrollment of 15 credits for each of three terms, totaling 45 credits per year. $11,898 $35,478
On-campus residence halls (including room and board)
Based on the most common type of room. University of Oregon students live on campus for their freshman year. $11,922 $11,922
UO Costs Total $23,820 $47,400

Other Estimated Costs

Books and supplies $1,146 $1,146
Personal expenses $2,034 $2,034
Transportation $366 $1,290

The total estimated cost of attendance, including UO costs and other estimated costs, is $27,366 for residents and $51,870 for nonresidents.

That’s a state school right there, per year. Not everyone can be an RA. Not everyone has parents that pay, well anything towards college. Most won’t finish in 4 years.