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Erin Buitendorp, Lansing, Mich.

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This photo was taken the day I graduated with my masters in college counseling from Western Michigan University in 2010. I am the first in my family to receive a graduate degree. This to me epitomizes the stratification of the middle class. It became a necessity for me to go on for my education after I graduated in 2005 and the economy went downhill. I was one of many college graduates who grew up in the Clinton era of prosperity and then, began college when the White House leadership changed parties. I applied for multiple jobs after earning my bachelors degree and consistently found positions with the same salary as someone with a high school degree. I knew in order to find more opportunities, it involved moving out of state or going back to school. I chose going back to school since I knew I would not be as motivated later in life and I did not have the means to move somewhere with more opportunities, however a higher cost of living. Since I graduated, I found a university position in which I advise students returning to receive their bachelors degree at a university center on a community college campus.

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