Why Generation Me Benefits from a Liberal Arts Education

By RoseAnn Foster

Generation Me, also sometimes called the Entitlement Generation or Gen Y, refers to those born after the 1980s and before the 2000s. It is today’s college students and soon to be high school graduates. According to Generation Me by Jean M. Twenge, this generation is more entitled, full of sometimes unrealistic optimism, and so confident in themselves it borders on absolute narcissism. However, this is exactly why this generation would benefit so highly from a liberal arts education.

Generation Me is a group of young people who have been told by their parents since they were young that they can do anything they want, and if they want it bad enough, it will happen. They believe very strongly in “happily ever after.” And as William Deresiewicz points out in “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education,” they have been fairly successful their entire lives. They don’t even comprehend what it means to fail. They have grown to expect success, and after all, if you want it bad enough, it will happen.

This is precisely why a liberal arts education is so important for this generation. It is the kind of education designed to acquaint students with a broad range of subjects, thus they will become more acquainted with subjects that challenge them. They will have to work hard to achieve the success they want in a diverse range of courses, or they will encounter failure. Such an experience will prepare them for the real world and may even humble them. 

However, the idea of a challenging set of courses is not necessarily at the top of the list of priorities for a group of young adults who put their happiness above almost anything else on their priority list. Staying in on a Friday night to study instead of going to a bar, a party, or simply the movies isn’t the best way to convince students such a curriculum is for them. So how to entice a generation of confident, entitled students to enroll in the liberal arts? Simple, tempt them with what they want: success and money.

According to Sharon Jayson in her USA Today article “Generation Y’s Goal? Wealth and Fame,” “In an annual survey of college freshmen by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, 2005 data show that money is much more on their minds than in the past.” Of course, learning for the sake of learning is wonderful. However, this group of students wants to live a life in which they are financially secure. They, to a certain extent, equate money with freedom to live as they desire. As a result, many are seeking business and pre-professional degrees, which they believe will translate to decent, if not high paying jobs.

However, in “New Study Points to Liberal Arts Graduates’ Success,” Donna Randell reveals that “Humanities and social science graduates actually had low unemployment rates and earned good salaries…by the time they were in their mid-fifties (their peak earning years), they were, on average, making more money than those who graduated with professional or pre-professional degrees.” Obviously then, success and money are both achievable goals with a liberal arts education. 

RoseAnn Foster is a senior at the University of Mississippi majoring in English. The University of Mississippi is home to the Beta of Mississippi Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.