The Jossey-Bass

Higher and Adult Education Series


We dedicate this book to our spouses, Linda Fentiman and John Giglio, both educators, and to our children, Jamie Levine, who is teaching today’s college students; Rachel Levine, who graduated from college in 2010 and is one of the people we are writing about; and Andy and Katy Giglio, who are the college students of the future. We love you very much.


It’s a straight line. Which rolls on itself. Which sways. Which sags. Which vibrates . . . Ready to explode. To dissolve. To dissolve me. To choke me. To swallow me. To throw me silently across the void . . .


This is a portrait of a generation on a tightrope. Today’s college students are struggling to maintain their balance as they attempt to cross the gulf between their dreams and the diminished realities of the world in which they live. They are seeking security but live in an age of profound and unceasing change. They desperately want the economic opportunity their parents enjoyed but are coming of age during a deep recession with reduced career prospects. They want to believe in the America Dream and are optimistic about their personal futures but they are pessimistic about the future of the country. They want to be autonomous grown-ups but seem more dependent on their parents and the adults around them than any modern generation. They want intimacy—a partner and a family—but they are isolated, weak in face-to-face communication skills and live in a hook-up culture. They want to play by the rules but they don’t know the rules and the rules are in flux because of the dramatic changes in our economy, the rise of new technologies, the condition of our public and private institutions, and a world growing flatter. They want to live in an Internet world, a digitally connected globe but the adults and social institutions around them are analog or digital immigrants, including their blackboard universities.

This is a generation that thinks of itself as global citizens but knows little about the world and acts locally. It is the most diverse generation in collegiate history with the strongest relationships between races but they have limited interest in talking about race or reaching across political or generational divides.

This is a story about how we help today’s undergraduates cross the abyss that threatens to dissolve and swallow them, and how we can work with them to ensure that they will help us all to create the diverse, global, digital information economy of the twenty-first century.

This book seeks to portray a generation of college students who were born, grew up, and will live their lives in a nation undergoing a transformation from an analog, national, industrial society to a global, digital, information economy. The portrait is a composite, a picture of a generation, not of the individuals who make up that generation. The portrait is multifaceted, a report on a generation’s attitudes, values, and experiences replete with the contradictions and inconsistencies that are part of the lives of all human beings. The portrait is complex, looking backward and forward across a span of more than two centuries with multiple historic anchor points and a number of different comparison groups.

This preface is intended to provide an overview of what we learned about today’s college students in the course of our research and to touch briefly on the implications of what we found for parents, schools, colleges, government, employers, and the host of institutions that touch the lives of young people.

What we discovered about this generation is that, though it is significantly different from its predecessors, it shares much in common with them. Today’s undergraduates and the students who attended college before them were optimistic about their personal futures, pessimistic about the nation’s future, committed to the American Dream, little involved in campus life, disenchanted with politics and government, more issue oriented than ideological, engaged in community service, utilitarian in their goals for college, weak in academic skills, beneficiaries of inflated grades, heavy users of psychological counseling services, consumer-oriented regarding higher education, and partial to sex and alcohol, among other things.

This finding challenges the American tendency to view every generation of college students as unique and to focus on the characteristics that distinguish them from their peers of the past. It also points to work that remains incomplete. Many of the challenges facing current college students were challenges for their predecessors but we have not come to grips with them. Parents have not been able to teach their children to be more responsible about their health. Schools have not improved their students’ academic skills. Colleges have continued to inflate undergraduate grades. Our political leaders have not given college students any more reason to trust government or be hopeful about the future of the country. It’s a finding that reaffirms the critical roles of parents, schools, colleges, government, and all of the other institutions in the lives of young people. They are responsible for raising, educating, developing, enabling, and supporting our children to live satisfying and contributing lives to the fullest extent of their capacity as individuals, family members, neighbors, workers, citizens, followers, and leaders.

We also discovered many things that are significantly different about today’s college students. They are described in the following sections.

Today’s Undergraduates Are the First Generation of Digital Natives

The students of the 1990s were a transitional generation straddling old and new worlds—analog and digital, national and global, industrial and information economies. In contrast, current students have their feet firmly planted in the new world. This poses an extraordinary challenge to most colleges and universities, which remain largely in the old world, educating an Internet generation in a culture of blackboards. Higher education lags far behind its students technologically and pedagogically and must transform itself if it is to educate current undergraduates for the world in which they will live.

Today’s College Students Are the Most Diverse Generation in Higher Education History

Current undergraduates are more diverse demographically than their predecessors; they grew up in a nation in which many of the historic glass ceilings that existed for women, people of color, and gays have cracked; they believe the country has made real progress in race, ethnic, and gender issues; and they are more comfortable than past students with multiculturalism and diversity. Undergraduates are global in orientation but have little knowledge about the world. These findings present colleges and universities with an opportunity to translate their rhetoric about multiculturalism and diversity into reality and the need to internationalize their programs.

Contemporary Undergraduates Are at Once More Connected and More Isolated Than Their Predecessors

Today’s college students have extraordinarily close ties with their parents and are in 24/7 contact with a tribe of friends, family, and acquaintances via social media, yet they are more alone in many of the activities they pursue. The image that comes to mind is a group of students walking across campus together, each on their cell phone chatting with other people. Today’s undergraduates are weak in interpersonal skills, face-to-face communication skills, and problem-solving skills. This finding raises red flags for parents, schools, colleges, and employers with regard to child-rearing, education, and personnel policies.

Current Students Are Facing the Worst Economy in Recent Memory with Unrealistic Aspirations for the Future

Today’s undergraduates believe the economy is the most important issue facing the country. More are working and more are working longer hours. They are taking fewer credits and require more time to graduate. Two-thirds are leaving college with large student loan debts. One in four who previously lived on his or her own is moving back with parents and one in eleven is unemployed. However, there is a mismatch between student aspirations and the economic realities they face. An overwhelming majority of undergraduates, a slightly higher percentage than in the 1990s, expect to be at least as well off financially as their parents.

This finding suggests that colleges and universities need to enrich their programs and services to better prepare students for today’s economy and that government should invest a greater share of its resources in financial aid grants as well as providing a safety net for students with large financial aid burdens and limited job prospects.

In Contrast to Their Predecessors, Today’s College Students Are More Immature, Dependent, Coddled, and Entitled

This is a generation of students who have not been permitted to skin their knees, rely much more on their parents than their predecessors, and have fathers and mothers, often described as helicopter parents, who are more involved in their lives and college affairs than ever before. Parents, schools, colleges, and employers have major roles to play in reversing this situation.

Today’s College Students Were Born into and Will Live Their Lives in a Nation Enduring Unrelenting and Profound Change at a Speed and Magnitude Never Before Experienced

The United States is undergoing the third of the great revolutions in human history: the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and whatever historians choose to name the transformation we are living through today. For the United States, this has been a time of dramatic demographic, economic, technological, and global change, which has in a very few years substantially altered many aspects of our lives from how we are conceived to when we die and seemingly everything in between—from how we communicate, entertain ourselves, and shop to how we date, bank, and work. It is a world in which all of our social institutions—government, media, health care, business, and education—appear to be broken. They were created for a different time and no longer function as well as they once did or as well as we need them to. They need to be remade for a new age. This is also a time when much that Americans took for granted is no longer true. Most Americans assumed their jobs, salaries, pensions, homes, and retirements were secure. When they woke up in the morning, they expected there would be a Soviet Union, a life-and-death struggle between Communism and capitalism, and the morning newspaper. Today’s college students have and will be living in a time of constant change. The implication of this finding is that schools and colleges need to educate these students in the skills and knowledge essential for such an era, which might be called the three C’s: critical thinking, creativity, and continual learning. This book suggests how this might be accomplished.

Current Undergraduates Grew up in a World Dramatically Different Than Their Parents

The parents of today’s college students grew up in an analog, national, industrial society and their children grew up in a global, digital, information economy. The parents came of age in a world bereft of digital devices whereas their children were born after the advent of Apple, Microsoft, personal computers, CD’s, mobile phones, e-mail, instant messaging, and the Internet. The parents grew up in an era of two superpowers and the threat of nuclear war and their children grew up on a flattening planet of weaker nation states and the promise of terrorism. As youngsters, the parents lived in an urban, white, more liberal country with its population concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast and their children came of age in a diverse, more conservative, suburban nation with a swelling immigrant population, concentrated in the South and West. This generation gap affects every institution and every adult who touches the lives of today’s college students.

The Pace and Scale of Change Will Accelerate for the Nation and Its College Students

America’s transition from an analog, national, industrial economy to a mature global, digital, information economy is not something that has occurred or will occur in two generations, no matter how different current undergraduates are from the adults in their lives. In the United States, the industrial revolution from launch to maturity was a six-generation process. The current revolution is likely to be shorter in duration if for no other reason than that the length of a generation has increased between revolutions and also because the speed of change is so much faster today. Nonetheless, the United States would have to be considered to be in the early stages, the infancy of the revolution, what might be called global, digital, information economy 1.0.

If the industrial revolution is any guide, the most profound changes occurred in the second half of the revolution—when water and steam power yielded to petroleum and electricity; when wood, stone, and iron gave way to steel; when railroads crisscrossed the country and telegraph and telephone lines knitted America into a nation; when the oil well, lightbulb, mass production steel mill, and assembly line were created; and when the great metropolises boomed and the modern corporation, bank, factory, and public regulatory system were established.

Today’s college students will live their adult lives during the next stage in the development and flowering of the global, digital, information economy, the 2.0 world and beyond. Theirs will be a world that grows continually flatter; experiences new applications of existing technologies and a burgeoning of new technologies—nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and infotechnology— and creates the mature information economy. All of these things are question marks for us today. We do not know what a flat world or a mature information economy looks like. We don’t know what impact new technologies will have. And the greatest limitation of all is that we don’t know what we don’t know.

But here is what we do know. Today’s college students will not only need to learn to live successfully in a world hurtling between its 1.0 and 2.0 versions but they also will have to create it.

Today’s college students arrive on campus poorly prepared for this world, lacking in skills, knowledge, and attitudes that it will require though they bring strengths their predecessors lacked. Today’s college students will need a very different education than the undergraduates who came before them, an education that prepares them for the twenty-first century. The colleges and universities that educate them are ill-equipped to offer that education today and will have to make major changes to provide it.

We also know that our own future depends on how well today’s college students are prepared to meet the challenges ahead—living as engaged citizens in an evolving information economy, a diverse global society, and a digital age in a time of profound and relentless change. Therefore, this portrait of a generation also suggests specific ways we can better shape and collaborate with the next generation, who will then change the future.

June 2012

Arthur Levine

Princeton, New Jersey

Diane R. Dean

Normal, Illinois


The research for this book spanned the years 2006 through 2011. Neither the research nor the book would have been possible without the help of thousands of people. We are grateful to every one of them—beginning with the senior student affairs officers and students who responded to our surveys and allowed us interview them. We wish to thank the Lumina Foundation for funding this project. Though its grant supported only this book, the Lumina project actually produced two books. This book was to focus not only on the students attending college but also the missing persons, the underrepresented populations who should be attending higher education but have been denied the opportunity. The study of missing persons resulted instead in a second book, Unequal Fortunes: Snapshots from the Bronx (Levine & Scheiber, 2010).

We are also grateful to the Rockefeller Foundation for providing a residency at their Bellagio Center to write this book. Without the support of the Lumina and Rockefeller Foundations, this book could not have been written. Leah Austin, Jill Kramer, Dewayne Matthews, and Holly Zanville at Lumina and Rob Garris, Pilar Palacia, and Elena Ogania of the Rockefeller Foundation were particularly important to us.

This project began at Teachers College, where Arthur and Diane worked. There we received the invaluable assistance of Jacquie Spano and Scott Fahey. Shortly after the project began, Diane, who served as principal investigator, moved to Illinois State University. A year later, Arthur went to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, where he was blessed to work with Carolyne Marrow, who coordinated the activities between Normal and Princeton, which had to be considered hardship duty.

We are thankful for the time and expertise of Phyllis McClusky-Titus, Helen Mamarchev, John Davenport, and Rick Olshak, who assisted us with the development of the senior student affairs officer and undergraduate student surveys; Carol Pfoff and Diana Weekes, who devoted late hours to work on the first wave of survey administration; and to Stacy Otto for her championship efforts and superhuman hours to assist with the second wave. We thank Rachel Levine for administering and overseeing the 2011 Student Affairs Survey.

Elizabeth Lugg, Wendy Troxel, Diane Wood, and Peter Richie teamed with us to conduct many campus visits and interviews. Grace Brown, Elizabeth Foste, John Giglio, Andrea Rediger, and Jackie Snelling transcribed the hundreds of hours of interviews. Carol Pfoff, Linda Wall, and Diana Weekes coordinated these activities. They have our very deep appreciation for very large contributions to this project.

We extend a thank-you to students at Allegheny College and Illinois State University who field tested and critiqued our undergraduate survey before we sent it out. We owe particular thanks to Rachel Levine, Katie O’Neill, Bryan Scheutz, and Mark Smeltz. We are indebted to each of the senior student affairs officers and staff at thirty-one colleges and universities, who tested our surveys, completed our surveys, and served as campus liaisons for day-long site visits to their campuses. They did an extraordinary amount of work, which made this research possible. Their names are listed in Appendix C.

We are also grateful to Howard Gardner, Margaret Weigel, and their colleagues at Project Zero for their generous collaboration. We also thank Mary Callahan, Pat Callan, Gwen Dungy, Mike Usdan, and Ron Wolk for reading our manuscript and providing us with wise counsel on how to strengthen it. This book is much better because of their insights. We cannot overstate Shep Ranbom’s contributions as counselor, friend, and muse.

David Brightman and Erin Null of Jossey-Bass have our gratitude for their patience and encouragement.

Above all the people who deserve the most gratitude are our families. Diane’s husband, John Giglio, graciously tolerated the study’s domination of his wife’s life for years through the planning, long field work, surveys, and analysis. He listened and encouraged throughout the project. Arthur’s wife, Linda Fentiman, was a wise counselor. She, too, listened endlessly, advised when asked, consoled and encouraged when needed, and chided when necessary.


Arthur Levine is the sixth president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (2006–present). Before his appointment at Woodrow Wilson, he was president and professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University (1994–2006). He also previously served as a faculty member and chair of the Institute for Educational Management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (1989–1994), president of Bradford College (1982–1989), and senior fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education (1975–1982).

Dr. Levine is the author of scores of articles, which have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. He has also authored, coauthored, or edited eleven books, the most recent of which is Unequal Fortunes: Snapshots from the Bronx (with Laura Scheiber).

Dr. Levine has received a number of honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and twenty four honorary degrees.

Dr. Levine received his bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University and his PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo.


Diane R. Dean is associate professor of higher education administration and policy at Illinois State University and principal investigator of the Portrait of Today’s College Student study. Dr. Dean’s research and publications focus on leadership, governance, and organizational issues in colleges and universities; higher education policy and its formation; the careers, work experiences and cultures of college and university faculty and academic administrators; and the sociocultural and classroom experiences of undergraduate students.

Dean is coeditor of the Women in Academe series (with Jeanie Allen and Susan Bracken), which examines gendered issues among students, faculty, and academic leadership; and coeditor of Public Policy and Higher Education (with Cheryl Lovell, Toni Larson, and David Longnecker). Dean received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, and her master’s and doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University.


This book presents a snapshot of US undergraduates enrolled in college between 2005 through 2014. It is the third book in an unintended trilogy. Arthur Levine is a product of the late 1960s. That’s when Arthur went to college. The first book in the trilogy, When Dreams and Heroes Died (Levine, 1980), was a study carried out for the Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education that compared the undergraduates of the Jimmy Carter era with the students of Arthur’s day. Like its successors, this book was the result of surveys of nationally representative samples of undergraduates and senior student affairs officers as well information gathered from site visits to more than two dozen college and university campuses, chosen to represent the diversity of US higher education. During the visits interviews were conducted with the senior student affairs officer, student government president, student newspaper editor, and a focus group of diverse students. The details of these data sources are discussed in Appendix B.

The first book described a self-concerned, pragmatic, and social generation of undergraduates who were optimistic about their personal futures and deeply concerned about material and career success but pessimistic about the country’s future. They were liberal on social issues, moderate in politics, disenchanted with government, and lacking in heroes. A second book was not anticipated.

The second book, When Hope and Fear Collide (Levine & Cureton, 1998), was a result of continuing conversations with undergraduates when visiting campuses for other purposes. For years, the students gave roughly the same answers to the same questions as their predecessors had in the first study. Then, very quickly, seemingly overnight, their answers changed rather dramatically. For instance, in contrast to the students of the 1970s undergraduates said they had heroes and had become more active politically, focusing on local issues. That caused Arthur, who was joined by Jeanette Cureton, to carry out a second study to try to learn what had happened and why.

The second book painted a picture of a generation that described itself as tired, torn between hope and fear of the future and committed to preserving the American Dream. They were more optimistic than their predecessors; had heroes, most often their parents; retreated from organized politics; and were issue oriented rather than ideological. They were actively involved in community service and their focus was local. With deep divisions by race, they were socially isolated and sexually engaged, more pragmatic than romantic.

This third book began with a mistake. The previous studies asked college students what social or political events had the greatest impact on them and their generation. The students of the 1970s answered Watergate, Vietnam, and the civil rights movement. The students of the 1990s did not have a common event. Their answers, which differed by race and gender, included the 1991 Gulf War, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Exxon Valdez Alaskan oil spill, the excessive force trial of Los Angeles police officers who arrested Rodney King, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the AIDS epidemic. In contrast to the students of the 1970s, they said the events did not have a significant impact on their lives.

It seemed to us that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the events that followed in its aftermath would be the signal events for current undergraduates, as powerful as the Depression or World War II in giving shape to a generation. This would be the September 11 generation. We undertook this study to find out who this generation was and to understand the effects of the terrorist bombing on young people.

The only shortcoming in the plan was that students said September 11 was not the key event in their lives. Rather, it was the establishment of the World Wide Web. Of importance, but to a lesser degree, were the election of Barack Obama, the world financial crisis, and September 11. Although this was a shock to us, it should not have been. The Internet has affected seemingly every aspect of collegiate life from the classroom and personal relationships to student politics and entertainment. We are convinced that the changes we are witnessing today are only the beginning of a cascade that will follow, touching not only current undergraduates but also transforming the world of their successors: the colleges, universities, and institutions and the people who surround them.

A lot has changed since the first book was published; actually an amazing amount has changed. At the time When Dreams and Heroes Died was published, there were no DVDs, CDs, Kindles, iPods, iPads, or iPhones; no texting, tweeting, skyping, or IMing. Mark Zuckerberg, LeBron James, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton had not yet been born. Barack Obama was a teenager and Osama bin Laden had just left college. There were no companies named Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Dell Computer, or Whole Foods Markets. The Cosby Show, Friends, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, and Cheers were not yet on television; E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark had not yet been released; and Cabbage Patch Kids, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, American Girl dolls, and Transformers had not yet appeared either. (If instead of writing Dreams and Heroes, Arthur had invested in almost any of these things, he would be very wealthy today.) The United States was waging the Cold War and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan were our allies. The Soviet Union, East Germany, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia still existed; Nelson Mandela was in prison; Jimmy Carter was president; and CNN was just founded.

The students portrayed in this book grew up in a dramatically different world than the undergraduates described in the two previous books. The temptation is to give them a name to signify how they are different. In the United States, we like to name college generations. By way of definition, a generation, for those who are interested, can refer either to students who are the same age or share common historical events or experiences. The definitions overlap a good deal and both are used in this book.

We have names and images for every generation of college students based on their fads, foibles, and circumstances; the ways in which they seem most different from the undergraduates who came before them. So, the students of the Roaring Twenties, who will be forever remembered in raccoon coats and flapper dresses, drinking from hip flasks, and dancing the Charleston, were called the lost generation. Their counterparts of the 1930s, named the Depression generation, were out of work and out of luck. The 1940s and 1950s brought the silent generation, wearing gray flannel suits and eagerly and compliantly seeking to rebuild lives interrupted by World War II. Then came the 1960s baby boomers, the generation of sex, drugs, rock and roll, and protest, who sported bell bottom jeans, tie-dyed T-shirts, and love beads. The students of the late 1970s and 1980s were the me generation, conservative, well coiffed, well dressed, and seeking to be well off. They were followed in the 1990s by generation X, who were actually anointed with an assortment of different labels: twenty-somethings, slackers, the thirteenth generation, and baby busters, among others, because they defied easy classification.

With each newly perceived generation of college students, there is what can only be described as a contest or race to name them. The way it works is that contestants write, film, or record an article, video, or song with a name for the generation and see if it sticks. The winners with the stickiest names receive spectacular prizes, including media attention, speaking fees, consulting opportunities, and endorsement possibilities.

With current students, as with their predecessors, the various entrees in the current name-that-generation contest focus on different aspects of their being, some more imaginatively than others. Current undergraduates have been called millennials (Howe & Strauss, 1992) and generation 2K (Zoba, 1999) because they are a part of the first college generation of the twenty-first century. They have also been called generation Y (Tulgan, 2009) and generation iY (Elmore & Cathy, 2010), which is logical because they followed generation X and are partial to the Internet. There is generation Z (Hopkins, 2005) because they are the children of generation X. Building on that Internet theme are the meat and potatoes Internet generation (Milner, 2010), the too-easy-to-confuse-with-basketball net generation (Tapscott, 2008), the insightful digital natives (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010), and the less committal digital generation (Jukes, 2010). There must be an iGeneration somewhere but we haven’t found it. Taking an entirely different tack are the names me-first generation (Lipkin, 2009), meaning they are a tad self-involved, and echo-boom generation (Alch, 2000), referring to the fact that these are the children of the baby boomers, not booming like their parents, just echoing. And so it goes.

As of this writing millennials leads the pack in popularity with generation Y following second but seeming to have faded because it may or may not refer to a somewhat older group of young people. The problem is that different authors sometimes ascribe different birth years to generations, often when using the same cohort name. In any case, google millennial generation and you will find there are 824,000 listings. Search and you’ll find more than one thousand books—hardcovers, paperbacks, Kindle editions, HTML, and audiobooks. (In the interest of candor, it should be noted that the one thousand number is somewhat inflated because for some of the titles, there are separate listings for the hardcover, paperback, audio, and Kindle editions.) These books cover an amazing array of subjects, ranging from gay millennials (Boone, 2000) and Christian millennials (Miller, 2003) to millennials as employees (Lancaster, 2010), political forces (Winograd & Hais, 2009), students (McHaney & Daniel, 2011), children (Vanderhaagen, 2005), and members of a global and multicultural society (Dolby, 2012). There is a paucity of self-help books, though.

The student newspaper editor at Swarthmore explained her objection to the practice of naming generations and to the name millennials in particular. She attended a lecture by a fellow who “labeled my generation as millennials and it really pissed me off . . . This guy assumed he knew everything about me when he really didn’t know anything about me.”

It is easy and perhaps unfair to poke fun at these efforts to describe generations. The problem is that the names describe only a facet of a generation, not the whole. In this sense, they conceal more than they reveal. College student attitudes, values, and experiences are continually shifting and changing. For the most part, these changes are matters of degree rather than kind. Generational names focus on the most visible of the changes. With time, however, the stereotype becomes more real than the generation itself. The students devolve into caricatures that eclipse the very real diversity found in every generation.

As described in the previous books, a good example, because the data exist to contrast image and reality, is the college student of the 1960s. In general, this generation was not political. In 1969, near the height of college student protests, less than a third of all undergraduates (28 percent) had participated in a demonstration (Gallup International, 1969). In May 1970, during the week of the most widespread student protests in US history following the killings of students at Kent and Jackson state universities, 43 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities were entirely unaffected (Peterson, 1971). Moreover, student political attitudes in the 1960s were decidedly middle-of-the road or conservative; only a third of undergraduates in 1969 described themselves as liberal or left of center (Undergraduate Survey, 1969). Most undergraduates (59 percent) came to college for the reason students have come to college for a thousand years—to get training and skills for an occupation (Undergraduate Survey, 1969). Nearly half (49 percent) saw the chief benefit of a college education as increasing their earning power (Undergraduate Survey, 1969).

This book seeks to paint a multifaceted portrait of the most diverse generation of college students ever to arrive on campus by including their hopes and aspirations, beliefs and values, academic experience, life beyond the classroom, politics, relationships, use of technology, and historic context. The book examines what has changed, what has shifted, and what remains the same about today’s students. It discusses the future this generation faces and the roles of parents, colleges, employers, and government in preparing them for that future.