Academic inflation refers to the increasing requirement of higher degrees for certain jobs, even when a higher degree is not necessary to perform those jobs. For example, many jobs that would have traditionally only required an associate’s degree in the past are now requiring a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree. This phenomenon is reducing the ability of those just entering the workforce to learn through work experience, and instead they are encouraged to remain in school to get certificates and degrees for longer periods of time.
Having a college degree no longer implies that an employee is qualified. The job market is witnessing an increasing number of college graduates whose academic training would not have been strong enough to earn them a college degree in previous years. Thus, this trend is both a result of academic inflation, and as a result employers now require even higher degrees to screen against under qualified job applicants.
One response to academic inflation is the widening range of college curriculum difficulties. Now that many employers are requiring a bachelor’s degree, newer colleges are opening with easier programs and less strict admissions. Even current colleges are lowering the difficulty of their academic programs and their admissions requirements. This not only increases the number of individuals who are able to receive a bachelor’s degree, but it also lessens the value of that degree to other individuals.
Grade inflation is also increasingly prevalent, and it contributes to the rise in academic inflation. It is becoming easier for students to earn good grades, and more graduates are reporting higher grade point averages (GPAs) on their resumes. This makes it harder for employers to differentiate between applicants, and they are consequently relying more on certificates and higher degrees to judge an applicant's potential.
There are also several economic effects tied in with academic inflation, such as the rise in the cost of higher education. The cost of tuition for college and professional schools is increasing much faster than the rate of inflation. This increase in cost may deter some students from pursuing higher degrees, counteracting the effects of academic inflation. During times of economic recession, however, the need for a job often trumps the need to avoid student loans. Students now are in a difficult bind, as the cost of education is high, necessitating higher loans, while the number of available jobs is low, necessitating higher degrees.