One of the factors of the new economy which makes the middle class, especially the young middle class, worse off today than they were in the past is the increasing cost of higher education combined with the increasing years of higher education which people feel necessary to obtain in order to be competitive in the economy.
Athough some college programs teach real skills (such as medical school, nursing, and engineering), the majority of college students are enrolled in majors which doesn't add much in the way of knowledge capital.
Student loans are increasingly used to pay for college, and the result is that young people have to go into debt in order to obtain a job which they could have obtained a generation ago debt-free without a college degree. With the exception of programs which generate genuine knowledge capital, college is mostly a transfer of money from the uncredentialed to the credentialed. Most college graduates obtain their knowledge capital on the job and not in college.
People harmed the most are those who start college and never finish. They rack up the debt, but they never gain a credential so they obtain no pecuniary benefits from their college education.
Democrats don't get it. Their goal is to spend ever increasing amounts of public money on the useless goal of making college as universal as high school. Do Democrats think that people who graduate high school barely knowing how to read are going to get anything out of college? Do they think that Walmart workers need a college degree?
The commenter who calls himself "Austrian" left a link to an interesting opinion article from the Washington Post. The author complains that the government isn't spending enough money on graduate education:
Once you aspire beyond a bachelor's degree, the financial aid door is pretty much closed unless you, or your family, have the economic ability to finance whatever costs are not covered by your guaranteed federal student loans.
Today's job market is becoming more and more competitive. Bachelor's degrees don't carry the weight they used to. It's almost necessary to have a graduate, doctorate or law degree to compete with the current highly qualified pool of candidates.
The article demonstrates both the demands for increasing government spending for higher education and the futility of such spending. Because bachelor's degrees have become so common, upper middle class parents now pay for their children to get graduate degrees to make their credentials stand out. If the bad advice of the author of the article is followed, and graduate degrees become as universal as college degrees, then upper middle class parents will then send their kids to yet some higher level of education once again out-credentialing the poor people. It's an "arms race" that can't possibly be won.