Editorial: Redefining the American Dream

North Wind Staff

We as students may not realize it yet—not until that thick piece of paper called a diploma is in our possession—but we will likely never be able to attain the “American Dream” as our parents thought of it.

Here at NMU, tuition has steadily increased, on average, $300 annually for at least the last 15 years. It doesn’t seem that it will slow down anytime soon, and we may not achieve typical  definitions of success until we pay off our student loans.


Many of us have heard baby boomers tell us they worked a summer job in college and were able to pay their own tuition, or at least chunks of it. Now, a student would be hard-pressed to take a whole year off from school, work full-time and pay for one semester out of pocket.

And we now have people with associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, even horror stories of doctoral candidates tending bars, serving coffees or waiting tables because of how the post-grad climate has shifted.

However, many millennials have found that foregoing a degree is not only financially sound, but pragmatic. We won’t advise whether millennials should pursue education or not—that’s a personal decision—but we also know that some dreams are best achieved outside the classroom.

Our moms and dads were looking to buy houses and have kids in their mid-twenties. If they’re smart, millennials are planning to delay marriage, parenthood and home ownership (partly thanks to baby boomers destroying the housing market).

A 2013 Pew Research Center study reported that millennials are marrying later than any other generation. As of 2013, only 26 percent of millennials were married between the ages of 18 and 32.

White picket fences, wedding gowns and baby cradles? We shouldn’t plan for that in the next five years, at least not from a financial perspective. And that’s okay.

We’re encouraged to craft our own futures, to not rush marriages or mortgages and to see our lives as our own. Despite the burdens of debt, we’re much more liberated from the traditional pressures of settling down.

Rather than accrue a mortgage and career as soon as possible, our generation is concerned with the buzz of travel and broadening experiences. Our bank accounts aren’t steadily accumulating paycheck deposits, but we’re finding ways to achieve goals despite the financial pressures we’ve inherited.

Most of us aren’t quite so ready to sell out. We chase authentic experience and newness so that we can more fully understand ourselves before we can comfortably say we know what we want in life.

This applies to who we want to marry, if we even want to get married, where we might like to live, and what sort of work we want to fill our lives with. We should feel excited to be liberated from traditional constraints of success; we’re redefining it for ourselves. We’re adaptable; we’re strong.

And we don’t care how our parents defined their success. We’re just happy they had us so we can redefine it for ourselves.