This month’s issue of Teen Vogue is devoted to female creativity and female empowerment. They decided to feature an op-ed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Maybe the editors thought it would boost circulation and she undoubtedly saw this as a chance to sell herself to really young people.
The problem is that her message is flat and her solutions are tired rip-offs from someone else that will only make the financial future harder for young people. Clinton copied from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s homework in pushing for "free" college plans in a bid to scoop up his young supporters.
Peddling the Bernie plan, she panders big to Teen Vogue readers by noting:
… I can’t think of a single issue facing our country or our world that wouldn’t be better off with more of you bright and committed women and men speaking out and taking action.
For example, too many of you are starting your lives struggling right off the bat, trying to pay for college or graduating saddled with debt. It would be all too easy for politicians to turn a blind eye to this problem. But instead you’re coming forward to share your experiences and calling on elected officials to take on the skyrocketing cost of college and do something about increasingly high loan rates. You’re taking bold steps to make higher education more affordable—but there’s a lot more work to do, and we need your help.
Clinton is absolutely right that many young people are struggling with student loan debt. The average graduate from the Class of 2016 emerged into the world with debt in the amount of about $35,000. Nationally, all of us student loan debt holders owe over $1.2 trillion dollars. As we’ve reported, student loan debt is holding Millennials back from purchasing homes, getting married, and hitting other generational milestones that our parents and grandparents had hit by these points in our lives.
Offering young people “free” college only makes the problem of college affordability worse, however. Not only is it pandering to what politicians think young people want. That cost of "free" college will be borne by us through higher taxes, greater national debt, and most immediately, higher costs for tuition and fees at higher education institutions, as a result of more government money in higher education. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, for every additional dollar in federal aid, colleges and universities increase their tuition by 55-65 cents. If Washington is guaranteeing to pick up the tab for a student’s bills, schools have no incentive to control their costs. We’re seeing tuition and other costs skyrocket out of control because of Washington’s out-of-control spending.
Clinton also misses her own point about young people finding creative solutions to the problems society faces. Young people are bypassing the traditional ways of getting things done, whether by “educating” themselves for the new economy or finding employment that doesn’t fall into the category of “good” jobs that Clinton regards as the only appropriate jobs. Think driving for Uber or working as a freelancer on Thumbtack.
College is not the best path for every young woman reading Teen Vogue. She may decide to pursue an apprenticeship with an interior design company to land an entry-level that would set up her career. However, in her state there may be occupational licensing rules that make it harder and more costly to become a licensed interior designer than even an emergency medical technician (EMT). This young woman is not concerned about the cost of college but the hurdles to becoming an interior designer. Clinton has been silent on how to help the many young people who don’t go to college though.
Young readers who flip open Teen Vogue may be puzzled by Clinton’s essay amid the lists of fall must-haves and advice for landing your next boyfriend. Some may find it inspiring, but there’s nothing new in her ideas. They are what we've seen throughout the last nearly eight years.
Interestingly, her essay may be targeted to teen girls, but she may end up speaking to adult male college students. Just ask this guy who “subscribes” to the magazine. As Racked exposes the bundling tactics of such magazines, they are landing on many mailboxes, but who knows if they are the correct target.
All teens – not just the college-bound ones- need jobs and opportunity, not the same old, same old.