Nydia M. Velázquez
Congresswoman currently serving her thirteenth term as Representative for New York’s 7th Congressional District
As our city and our nation’s economies have changed in recent years, one of the demographics that has faced the greatest challenges are young people. New York has always thrived on the energy, new ideas and dynamism that younger generations bring to all five boroughs. However, with rising rents, mounting student loan debt and a tight job market, young New Yorkers are facing unprecedented challenges. Constraining these young peoples’ economic opportunity is bad for our entire city, chilling the entrepreneurship we all need to see new jobs created and for our neighborhoods to succeed.
Likely to be saddled with unprecedented amounts of student debt, many young people fear a future in which their loan payments prohibit them from buying a home or purchasing health insurance. For the average class of 2016 graduate, a bill totaling $37,172 in student debt is the norm. Collectively, as a country, we have taken on $1.26 trillion in student loan debt, spread among over 43 million borrowers. It is time that we take a hard look at federal measures to increase the affordability of college, as well as the ways in which we structure student loans.
Making matters even worse, young people are overwhelmingly underemployed and face difficultly securing a job within their field of study. A year-long survey of 500,000 Americans ages 19 to 29 found that 63 percent of those fully employed had a bachelor’s degree, and were most commonly employed as merchandise displayers, clothing-store and cellular phone sales representatives. Before turning 29, the average young American has held over seven jobs, with a third of them lasting less than six months.
The American spirit has long been defined by key breakthroughs in innovation. While many young New Yorkers are breaking down barriers in fields like medicine and technology, entrepreneurship is lower among Americans ages 18-34 than among prior generations. In 2014, less than 2 percent of young people were self-employed, compared with 8.3% of Baby Boomers and 7.6% of Generation Xers.
These problems merit our attention and a robust discussion. To that end, next Wednesday, I’ll be hosting a discussion at Mayday Space in Bushwick. “Need for Change: Helping Young New Yorkers Succeed” will be a community event on Sept. 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. that will address several of the major obstacles facing young New Yorkers in today’s economy.
I’m delighted to announce a panel of bright young speakers, themselves younger New Yorkers who exemplify the unique entrepreneurship and ambition of this generation.
Jen Mishory, Executive Director – Young Invincibles
Layla Zaidane, CEO – Millennial Action Project
Jacqueline Medina, Food and Local Business Editor – Bushwick Daily
William Hubbard – Vice President of Government Affairs, Student Veterans of America
Daniella De Jesús, actress – Bushwick native
Each panelist will give a short statement on their experiences and struggles in this economic climate. This will be followed by a discussion about what we need to be doing at the city, state and federal levels to ensure the next generation of New Yorkers have the opportunity succeed.
As just one example, for artists and those who teach art, I believe your work provides a tremendous public service. For this reason, I’ve introduced a bill to provide student loan forgiveness to cultural, museum and arts professionals—all of whom provide services for seniors, children or adolescents. I’ve also authored legislation to provide student loan deferment for young entrepreneurs who launch new businesses – and for the employees of such startups.
Policy changes like these are just few ideas I hope we can touch on during next week’s discussion. I hope to see you at this event and look forward to hearing how together, we can improve New York’s 7th Congressional District and ensure that the next generation of Americans are afforded the same quality of life and opportunity as previous generations.
To RSVP, please click here.