Today's College Students Really Are Broke
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Today's College Students Really Are Broke

It's not their fault, and lawmakers need to act accordingly.

We're not saying this just as a punchline, college students really are broke. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that millennials, many of whom are in college, spend less money than previous generations.

The media loves to shit on us for being a bunch of cheap degenerate snobs. But these stories are out of touch, and other factors have directed our spending habits.

One of the main factors is the student debt we carry. In today's economy, employers' demand for employees with college degrees has gone up in recent years, causing millennials to pursue a college education at a higher rate compared to other generations. This has proven to be problematic however, as government spending on college per student has gone down since the 1960s, and has sharply decreased since 2008 due to the financial collapse. Because of this, many college students find ourselves drowning in student debt. Americans as a whole owe $1.2 trillion in student debt, and most of that is owned by millennials. 63 percent of millennials have at least $10,000 in student debt, and a third of us owe more than $30,000.

Due to factors like student debt, we're spending less of our paychecks on consumer goods than generations past. And this has come with economic consequences. On average, millennials spend 27 percent less on discretionary consumer goods than Generation X does. If this trend continues, businesses could end up in deep trouble, because sales from consumer spending is what gives them the ability to hire workers and make investments into the economy. With profit margins falling, businesses won't have the adequate revenues to hire us when we're out of college, lowering our ability to generate an income which will lead to even less consumer spending, making it harder for us to pay off our student debt, and thus creating a viscous cycle of economic and social anxiety.

How should the government respond?

One of the most direct solutions to alleviate our student debt woes would be to make college tuition free (of charge to students). This will do two things. First, it'll allow anyone who's academically qualified to pursue higher education, the ability to go off to college. With more students receiving college educations, the workforce will be enriched with much more skilled and productive employees to hire. Second, we can spend more of our incomes on goods and services, rather than paying off loans. This increase in consumer spending will act as a huge boost to the American economy.

Another way to help out college students would be to increase the budget deficit. This is a necessary policy tool for the government to implement, otherwise the United States economy could see itself in prolonged recession. Many people would find this concerning, but it's necessary because a deficit means the government poured more money into the pockets of consumers than it took away from us in taxes. And as I explain in an article I wrote in the past, the deficit is nothing more than an accounting identity reflecting the state of economy and private sector consumer spending levels.

Lastly, for those of us currently struggling with loans, paying them back would be made easier if the Federal Reserve lowered their interest rates. The Fed's recent rate hikes have made it more expensive for millions of college students to pay back our loans.

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How Effective is Hashtag Activism?

Does hashtag activism really work, especially for college students?

You changed your profile picture. You shared an infographic on Facebook. You retweeted a video. You signed an online petition.

Is this all we can do to make a difference in today's world as college students? Surely not. We see tragedies upon tragedies, issues upon issues arise on a daily basis, and when not dealt with, they seem to continue to pop up more frequently across the country.

I'm not saying someone's right or wrong. Everyone's entitled to their opinions of how they think our country, or any country should handle an ongoing social or political issue.

But how much are we as college students able to really make a difference? Sure, we've seen athletic directors and presidents of universities removed at the request of protests on campus, but what of national issues? Are we big enough and important enough to seriously impact the everyday lives of almost 320 million people?

An article from USA Today from 2015 looks into this. Social media difference-making attempts, or, "hashtag activism", is "the act of using a hashtag to help promote or support a specific cause on social media."

This dates as far back as the #OccupyWallStreet movement, and began to gain serious traction with #Kony2012.

But just how effective is it? What are the ultimate goals? Many critics of "clicktivism" say that it doesn't really produce concrete results. They sit behind their screens, click a few keys to address the hashtag, and that's all it is to them. There's maybe a discussion on their Facebook post, but it never goes much further than that.

There's a pretty standard cadence to which "hashtag activism" is rolled out. First, the big issue or tragedy occurs. Then comes a few days of shock, anger, or really any emotion about the event in general, followed by weeks of a feeling of "we need to do something".

But just what is that something?

Unfortunately, in today's world, that something is no more than a Facebook post, Tweet, sharing a trending article, a video, or just something as small as a minor changing of their profile picture to say, "Hey, I know what happened, I'm acknowledging that I feel strongly about it."

Even with that, it feels like nothing really changes.

But we can't address hashtag activism unless we admit that sometimes, it actually works.

We're all familiar with the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. When it first started out, even I looked at and said: "Wow, look at all the awareness it's generating, but it'll never succeed." But boy was I wrong. The challenge helped to raise over $100 million for ALS research.

A Cone Communications Study conducted in 2014 showed that social media is an incredibly effective way to generate awareness. Some statistics from this study:

64 percent of Americans say they are more likely to support social and environmental issues in different ways such as volunteering, donating, and sharing information, after first "liking" or "following" the organization on social media.

58 percent feel Tweeting or posting about a social or environmental issue is an effective form of advocating for the cause.

52 percent use social media as a platform to talk about issues they care about, and believe their voices make a difference.

Why is this? Because social media RUNS OUR EVERYDAY LIVES. Everyone is on social media multiple times a day, so it really can be an extremely effective method for awareness.

In a culture that is becoming increasingly more intertwined with the online world and with a population that has both real-life and online personas, it's only natural that internet activism would be the next step.

But there are a few requirements for hashtag activism to work.

It needs to be something everyone can get behind, which is an obvious, glaring problem. Not everyone agrees that there needs to be more gun regulation, but everyone agrees that ALS needs to be cured, or that 300 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram need to be saved.

That's the basis, but there are much more criteria it must meet.

A quick story to explain the further criteria: I was recently challenged on Facebook to participate in an attempt to raise awareness for the serious issue of veteran suicide.

I was to film myself doing 22 push-ups a day for 22 days straight, to make people aware of the 22 veterans that commit suicide daily. First criteria of unanimity, check.

But I still did not participate. Why? What boxes is this method of web activism not checking? What made me not want to do it? Because what I would be doing was:

Awkward: It's uncomfortable, especially for the majority of college kids, to post a video of themselves doing pushups on Facebook.

Embarrassing: The fear that college kids have of being made fun of by their friends for it outweighs the benefits of completing the challenge.

Lacked Humor: The Ice Bucket Challenge was a fun, lighthearted task to raise awareness. Push-ups seemed way too serious.

This leaves us with the question "What more can we do?" Frankly, I don't know. Personally, I do not believe that hashtag activism is good for anything other than awareness and raising money.

I think that in order to actually make a difference, real-time activism, and getting behind politicians with platforms we support, are more important pieces of the puzzle.

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The Fact that the Millennial Generation is so Liberal Scares the Shit Out of Me

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

Source: K.C. Uthus | FlockU

I should start this off by stating that while yes, I am a Republican, I am not completely devoid of liberal views when it comes to social policies. However, the fact that my generation is so blatantly left-wing scares the absolute shit out of me.

According to Pew Research statistics published in 2015, the millennial generation is the most Democratic age group, with 51 percent identifying as a member of that party.

Not only that, but an article in the Washington Post, "Bernie Sanders is profoundly changing how millennials think about politics, poll shows." It states that Bernie Sanders is "by far" the most popular candidate among voters between 18-19, which is a majority of the generation. Bernie Sanders. A socialist - that goes even beyond being liberal.

And I think it's no news to anyone that Clinton is the second most popular candidate. Between the two, Republicans are struggling to gain the millennial vote.

Now, without alienating any readers of this article by digging too far into any specific issues, I'll give you a quick briefing on where my fear of this highly liberal shift comes from.

There is kind of a, "If it ain't broke don't fix it," mentality in my argument. While America definitely has its issues--it's not broken. We don't need to be changing things left and right and we definitely don't need to be handing out more shit for free.

John Bromilow, a political scientist from the UK put it best when he said: "The Conservatives want to keep things as they are; the Socialists want to change everything; the Liberals want to change things too but not so as you'd notice; but the Communists want to go around killing people."

Ok, so you can ignore that last part about communism, because that's not really an issue at hand. The rest of the quote however is so spot-on and defines my point so perfectly I almost debate ending this article here.

Whether you agree or not you should at least understand after reading this quote why I, as a conservative, would fear the severe liberalism of my generation.

While I think there is a time and a place for liberal ideas, I don't think the time is now and I don't think the place is the government. A government is something that needs to be run conservatively or else there is no shot of survival.

Conservative policies keep shit in check and preserve American values. Liberal ideas mess with things that don't need to be messed with in order to make everyone happy, and that's absurd because you can't make everyone happy. Democrats and liberals think that the most important issues are social ones.

They would fight for social justice before they would fight to keep our economy afloat or our diplomatic relationships strong. That's going to fuck us up. A country is no different than a business.

The main focus needs to be on money and policy - that's the only way to keep things running. There are going to be unhappy employees no matter what, just like there are going to be unhappy citizens no matter what.

Liberalism is about people-pleasing and people-pleasing doesn't work.

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The Curse of Millennials

Student loan debt is a real fucking problem.

FlockU Presents is a new vertical we've launched for longform pieces about topics you care about - everything from sex and body shaming to the history of beer pong to how terrorism affects you as a college student.

It's on all of our minds. It's part of Bernie's campaign. It's breathing down our backs and throttling the frail necks of our wallets. It's student loan debt.

Now, the phrase, "student debt," has been uttered to the point where it's become a buzzword. We talk about it so much that when we try to envision the debt itself we think of enormous piles of cash, or canvas sacks with dollar signs on them. Or Scrooge McDuck's vault.

In reality, student loan debt operates more like that scene in The Road to El Dorado where all those women are throwing gold into a whirlpool, except we students are the women, the gold plates are stacks of cash, and the whirlpool is The GovernmentTM (or something equally nebulous and elusive).

We pay it back and it flows through some shady backrooms with exposed pipes and evil businessmen in pinstriped suits smoking fat cigars, sneering at the meager pennies we're able to give up to make progress on our loans.

Where does it go? Wherever FAFSA tells you, because where the money goes isn't as important as the fact that you have to pay it back, and often. Students are in debt for years. People are still paying loans into their 30s or 40s, depending on the size of the loan/interest/cost of schooling. That's a lot of gold to be tossing into that whirlpool.

So, exactly how much are students expected to pay back? According to The Institute For College Access and Success, (which keeps track of statistics like this to wave in Congress's face to show them how they're inhibiting their own rising generation), in 2014, 69 percent of college seniors graduated with debt. Within that 69 percent, the average amount borrowed is about $30,000. In 2015, according to The Wall Street Journal, this spiked up to more than $35,000. Indeed, the trend since 2004 shows that each successive year of graduates is accruing more and more debt.

Why? Short answer: the economy. Because of inflation, school tuition is going up. But because the economy is still staggering around on spindly little chicken legs, student aid grants coming from places like FAFSA aren't keeping up with the demand. There's too much to pay, and too little to cover it because there's too little to go around. Hence all the "FAFSA gave me fourteen dollars this semester," memes. And the sad thing is, that's not even much of a joke.

I'll put it in perspective. A senior in my department was accepted to the School of Visual Arts in New York. A great school, with a great curriculum, and huge out-of-state tuition. Specifically, $30,000 a year, PLUS room and board, PLUS all the other little things you'd have to pay for, like off-campus dining and the subway. The total after all that's added together? Over $56,000. And financial aid was willing to spot this senior a grand total of $10,000.

That much money is a lot to ask of anyone, not even looking at the fact that the $10,000 aid probably comes with a lot of stipulations, such as remaining a full-time student. (Read the fine print so you don't accidentally screw yourself). There's also the small fact that it has to be paid back at some point. So if you're taking, at minimum, a $10,000 loan (which is pretty generous, by the way,) every year for four years, you've got a five-figure sum plus interest you're paying back.

If you go Super Senior, then it gets worse because credit prices get jacked up for part-time students. You can actually end up paying more for ten credits than you would've paid for fifteen.

I suppose it could be worse. This person could have wanted to go to medical school and incur up to $170,000 in student debt, which is mind boggling. Just imagine someone putting a gun to your head and saying you had ten years to pay back $170,000. Would you cry? Because I'd cry.

So let's talk about that, paying it back. We all have to, eventually, and to pay it back you need the money to do so. And to get that money you need a job. And to get a job there need to be: A) job openings, and B) job openings that do not expect grads with degrees to work fifty hours a week for less than $10 an hour.

And as much as our parents tell us to, "pound the pavement and knock on some doors," like it's still 1976 and that's a thing that people can still do, it's becoming more and more difficult to find a job out of college that actually utilizes our degree and pays moderately well.

Here's another story, this time from a member of the class of 2014. It was their first summer out of college and they had that debt to pay off, so they decided to get a job immediately to get a jump on those payments. Problem is, most employers want an inordinate amount of experience for entry level jobs; "2 years prior experience in serving tables," is a real thing I have read. So here they are, fresh out of college with a degree and a resume, and they end up pulling a customer service gig for the first eight months until they get their break.

And that's what we all need to get the ball rolling on those payments; we need that one job that gets us in the door. For some people, (the ones blessed by angels), that job is right out of the graduation gate. For others, it's a few months later, and for others still it can take years to find something that sticks.

This doesn't even count the people that don't graduate and still have loans to pay back, a section of the student debt crisis that goes largely unnoticed. Imagine the problems listed above and having to solve them without a bachelor's degree.

There is one bright spot in all of this, however, and while it doesn't solve the problem, it does lessen it. Again according to The Wall Street Journal, graduates who are landing those big-break jobs are making pretty good salaries. An average of $50,000 a year kind of good. And while no student-loan debt is better than manageable student-loan debt, at this point, in this economy, with the amount of stress our generation is under?

Let's take what we can fucking get, honestly.

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Five Things You Need to Know Today: 4/29

We read the news so you don't have to.

Here's what you need to know today, thanks to our friends at the Daily Pnut.

1) The U.S. Economy isn't doing so hot right now.

The U.S. economy grew at the lackluster annual rate of 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016 in a possible sign that the seven-year recovery might be feeling some strain. The U.S. is one of the few bright spots in the global economy with the Federal Reserve feeling so optimistic recently that they raised interest rates in December. They've since held off doing it again as global growth has been quite disappointing... to put it mildly.

Basically, Japan just slipped into deflation and might experience zero growth despite the Bank of Japan doing everything to increase growth short of firing money out of a cannon into crowds. Meanwhile, China is struggling under a mountain of debt, Brazil is too busy impeaching its president to worry about its terrible recession and Europe's economy is somewhere between constipated and giving up. Central banks around the world are basically printing money to get things moving again, but governments are one-upping them by ushering in a golden era of political dysfunction.

2) The ceasefire that never began just ended.

The truce is officially over after the Syrian government carried out more than 40 airstrikes in Aleppo, destroying a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders and leaving at least 30 people dead. Dr. Wasem Maaz, the last remaining pediatrician in the rebel-held part of the city, was among the people confirmed killed by an airstrike. And "ceasefire" is confirmed the official "literally" of 2016, in that it now means the opposite.

3) The Greatest Show On EarthTM

The GOP election circus put on a show yesterday that could rival Ringling Brothers. Carly Fiorina kicked things off with a serenade so bizarre that it might force Andy Borowitz to retire. Then, SideShow John Boehner gave a scathing interview at Stanford University where he called Ted Cruz "Lucifer in the flesh" and confirmed what we already knew about Cruz: "I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life." And as a grand finale, Trump headlined the night with a foreign policy address so terrifying, Russians praised it.

4) French protesters clash with police over new labor law.

Violence erupted across several French cities yesterday as hundreds took to the streets to protest the planned labor reforms. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said more than 100 protesters had been detained country-wide and over two dozen police and military forces were injured, in some cases critically. Figures for civilian injuries are yet to be confirmed. Critics of the proposal feel it would let employers bypass regulations on basic worker rights. Proponents argue that it would give bosses greater freedom to set their own rates, which might alleviate unemployment.

5) Florida school project sparks fear of Zodiac Killer.

A class project at Florida State University took a strange turn when it prompted police to investigate whether the Zodiac Killer had returned. For an English class, students were asked to write a message in a public forum and take a picture of it. Easiest A ever. Unfortunately, one overachiever scribbled "I'm alive and well and I'm going to start killing again" on an apartment complex for the assignment. Police were called to investigate the graffiti that included the cipher associated with the Zodiac Killer of the late '60s and early '70s. No word yet if this assignment will still be on the syllabus next semester.

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Spending in College

We're not so broke after all!

I know I sound like a broken record when I say college is expensive.

But you can't really argue with this: Average tuition for the 2015-2016 school year to a four year public university was $9,410 for in-state and $34,031 for out-of-state. A four-year private institution was $43,921.

With price-tags like those, it's easy to see how college can burn a serious hole in your (and your parents') pockets. Those alarming figures only account for tuition and room and board, so what about your regular, everyday spending? Last weekend's flash sale splurge, margarita night with the girls, 2 a.m. Dominos orders, and all those textbooks worth an arm and a leg add up. How much does the average college student spend in a year?

*drumroll please*

In a survey run by Study Breaks College Media for the 2014 school year, 73 percent of college students spent an average of $6,000 a year on basic living expenses such as groceries, rent, utilities, gas. 14 percent spent $18,000 or more a year.

I may not be a finance expert, but those numbers are pretty shocking for someone like me whose campus job is the min-wage weight room shifts. Gotta love work study!

Curious about where all this money is being spent? Just think about the last two weeks and you probably have a fair guess.

Of the students interviews, 99 percent spent money each month at restaurants, and 70 percent spent money at bars or on clothes each month. 76 percent of students spent money each month on beauty products. And you can't forget about textbooks; the average student spent $1,200 last year on them. All these costs sound fairly accurate, but still, $6,000 seems pretty steep.

Then there are the outlying costs that I don't think about offhand, like travel expenses or new electronics. 87 percent of students said they paid more than $500 a year on trips- spring break alone could cover that one. And with each student on average owning six different electronics, it makes sense that 60 percent of us are spending money on these devices every month.

When it comes to the source of this money, parents and jobs are pretty evenly matched at 45 percent and 40 percent respectively. Three quarters of students work to help offset these costs with the average student making $1,200 a month from all sources.

It's no wonder multiple industries target college students. We're young and as a whole have the least experience in budgeting. In 2013, college students had a $117 billion dollar discretionary spending power, with $42.1 billion of that spent on food. No regrets.

This isn't a lecture on spending habits, because clearly everyone's are different. I spend an absurd amount of my paycheck on makeup and sports equipment every month, but I find the cost is worth it for my happiness and sanity in college.

It's important to treat yo self every once in awhile, amirite? It's just an important reminder to have an awareness of spending, because paying off those student loans after college is scary enough.