Older generations are often heard to say that young people have it so easy these days; and in lots of ways, they are right. Technology has made almost everything more immediate, more convenient, and more efficient. With that technology came a gradual shift from production-type jobs to service and knowledge work (Draut 552). It used to be that people couldn't go to college because they had to start working at a factory to support a family, for instance; but the jobs they got eventually afforded them a comfortable life and secure retirement, so a college degree wasn't absolutely necessary. And even if they did pursue a higher education, the expense was much less prohibitive and grants were more plentiful (Draut 552). Today, the rising cost and declining value of getting a college degree is creating an entire class of overqualified and underpaid young adults who are saddled with years of debt.
What does it mean to have a college degree today? Not as much as it used to. In fact, it's rather common these days. The job market is over-saturated with seekers that have undergraduate degrees, and these graduates seem to be displaying a less than stellar grasp of the knowledge they are supposed to have learned. According to Selwyn Duke, "today's college degree is the educational equivalent of only a 1947 high school diploma, although with studies evidencing the ignorance of college graduates, rating it even that highly is questionable" (11). Duke points out the second part of this equation by citing Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa's study concluding that "36 percent of students did not show any significant improvement over four years" in Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) performance, which tests for "critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication" (11). Our high schools are starting students off at a disadvantage, as "up to 45 percent of incoming freshmen require remedial courses in math, writing or reading" right out of the gate, "despite the fact that colleges have dumbed down courses so that the students they admit can pass them" (Duke 11).