Op-ed: Correcting myths about Millennials

Suggests anti-millennial critics are dismissing valid concerns

America's students are speaking up about complex flaws in higher education—but because of their age, few people are bothering to listen, Sophia McClennen writes in Quartz.  

Millennial students are protesting racial discrimination, the rising cost of higher education, and the increasingly heavy student debt load. These are very real concerns, McClennen writes, but critics attack Millennials, describing them as "overreacting, hysterical, entitled, and coddled."

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"But the critiques and characterizations of the student protesters actually aren't grounded in any sort of reality," McClennen writes. "Instead, public response to student protests has been largely based on anecdote, intolerance, and a failure to recognize the very real challenges students face today."

Campus bubble

Some say that college campuses don't expose students to life after graduation. Instead, the administration coddles students, inflates their grades, and all but guarantees they'll graduate with full honors.

Jeffrey Selingo, a faculty member at Arizona State University, wrote in the Washington Post that colleges "have turned into one big danger-free zone, where students live in a bubble and are asked to take few, if any, risks in their education."

He argues that his own school pushes students along to graduate without the student doing any real work themselves—but that isn't true, McClennen says, pointing to ASU's four-year graduation rate of 43%—"a far cry from the diploma turnstile described by Selingo."

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And those students that don't graduate often still have student debt to pay. While some might call student loan "good debt", McClennen says, the evidence suggests otherwise. Around 70% of college students are in debt, tallying up to a nationwide total of $1.2 trillion, according to McClennon. Not only is student loan debt a financial burden for years, "in extreme cases, student debt can lead to suicide," McClennen writes.

And for minority and female students, being a Millennial student can be even more difficult. Women may have a harder time paying off student loans because of lower earnings after graduation compared to their male peers, according to a study by the American Association of University Women. And students of color also have higher rates of student loan debt—but lower graduation rates—than white students.

"Why is there an inability to imagine that students have legitimate grievances?" McClennen asks, adding that, until Millennial-bashing falls out of favor, "it's unlikely any serious thought will be given" to institutional flaws (McClennen, Quartz/The Conversation, 12/11; Selingo, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 10/21).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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