Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Opinion Roundup; Affordable College Is Key to the Future

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Opinion Roundup; Affordable College Is Key to the Future

Article excerpt

Americans like to think of themselves as middle class even when they're not.

We may be wealthy, but we got there by using middle-class values of hard work.

We may be poor, but we believe in our hearts that it's only temporary, that something better is around the corner.

The devastation of the Great Depression was that it sucked the hope out of so many Americans.

Similarly, the Great Recession has been shrinking the middle class.

Though a college education still is the best insurance for a comfortable life, the cost has skyrocketed as states have reduced support. Student loans are turning into a weight that keeps young adults at home, causes them to delay marriage and postpone having children.

More Americans feel they're walking a tightrope about their future, according to a poll by Allstate/National Journal. They are teetering.

Only small percentages of Americans believe it is realistic that they will be able to pay for their children's college education, retire comfortably or have enough savings to deal with a health emergency or the loss of a job.

A similar poll by Georgetown University focuses on young adults, the millennials, called "the new lost generation."

A few of the disturbing findings:

- Americans now are 30 years old when they first earn a median wage, up from age 26 in 1980.

- The labor force participation rate for young people dropped to its lowest level in about 40 years.

- Today a youth in his late teens is less likely to be working than his grandfather.

In other words, the American dream - economic security - is in jeopardy.

Another key part of the dream is a belief that the future will be better. More and more, that is not the case. Respondents say they have less economic security, less disposable income and less job security than their parents' generation.

A plurality said that college education should be made more affordable.

College is more than being trained for a job. It provides the ability to learn throughout life and the confidence that obstacles can be overcome. That may not mean a four-year degree for everyone, but it does mean more training after high school and continual upgrading of skills throughout life.

"In this economy, without postsecondary skills, you may not even have a job," according to a report from the Lumina Foundation.

Since the recession, jobs have accelerate for adults with college degrees but are disappearing for people with just high school degrees.

A little more than one-third of working age Floridians have at least a two-year college degree, about the national average. But most of the new jobs will require one.

It's time to find something as innovative as the GI Bill for the nation, a way to invest in college education on a massive scale.


If you're poor and not eligible for Medicaid - commonplace in Florida - Obamacare may not do much for you. …

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