THE BLOG
01/23/2015 01:30 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2015

The Millennial State of the Union Must Not Be Overlooked, and Here's Why

They were young and in love in America, and it doesn't get much better than that.

-- President Barack Obama, January 20, 2015

If you've ever been young and in love in America, you know that's true. As President Obama told the story of Rebekah and Ben, the story of America, who fought joblessness and debt, but ultimately "made it through some very, very hard times," you could feel the nation's blood pressure calm.

But for young adults, the very, very hard times are still upon us.

The crushing weight of the Great Recession fell on everyone, but young adults suffered the worst blow. And we're still scraping to get out of the hole.

Our generation faces unemployment rates that are higher than the national average -- 7.9 percent of 18 to 34 year olds are unemployed, compared to 5.6 percent of all ages.

More alarmingly: young, black adults are unemployed at a rate that's 2.5 times higher than their young, white peers.

The best ticket to a job is higher education. Knowledge and skills, the kind you can develop in college, are more necessary to compete in our churning job market than ever before.

Unfortunately, affording a college degree is harder today. Tuition costs are soaring, and perhaps not surprisingly, so is student loan debt. Student loan debt has piled high to more than $1.2 trillion across the country. It's why the President rightly has been pushing for more affordable pathways to community college and flexible student loan repayment methods.

If you're reading this and think that young adults should simply work their way through school with a summer job or forgo higher education entirely, know this: That is not how our economy works anymore.

Gone are the days of paying a year's tuition with a summer's worth of scooping ice cream or building houses.

Gone are the days of one of the greatest financial awards for low-income students -- the Pell Grant -- covering half the cost of college to make a higher education affordable (today, it covers a meager third).

Those with no education after high school don't have it much better.

Wages have dropped 10 percent for our generation since the Great Recession hit across the board and the lowest-paying sectors typically require the least education. To make ends meet, a higher education -- or technical training -- is key to financial security.

Last year, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bill that would give more young people job training through registered apprenticeship programs -- appropriately coined the LEAP Act -- but it's up to the new Congress to bring it back and secure votes.

We hope President Obama's State of the Union address serves as a wake-up call for Congress and the country to act, or, shall we say, leap!