Gen Z May be Rejecting the Traditional College and Career Paths

Amidst a global pandemic, American teenagers remain steadfast in their belief that higher education plays a key role in their future success; however, the education and career paths they are planning to take after high school differ from previous generations.

In fact, more than half are open to something other than a four-year degree and 70 percent want to follow their own educational path.

The statistics were uncovered in two national surveys conducted by ECMC Group, a nonprofit corporation focused on helping students succeed, in partnership with VICE Media. The studies, which polled more than 2,200 high schoolers ages 14-18, were conducted Feb. 25-March 2, 2020, and May 14-20, 2020—before and during the pandemic.

“This study shows that today’s students are incredibly resilient and resolute in their desire to forge their own path when it comes to education,” says Jeremy Wheaton, president and CEO of ECMC Group. “It also illustrates that they have a keen understanding of the need for skills-based training and lifelong learning, which are integral to succeeding now and in the future.”

The results are featured in a new “Question The Quo” campaign, developed by ECMC Group to empower students to learn about the various higher education options available and to take the career path that’s right for them.

Additional findings include:

Gen Z is concerned about student loan debt
• 64 percent worry about how they’ll pay for higher education
• 56 percent expect the government to provide additional money to help pay off their loans
• 46 percent expect companies to provide formal education that upgrades work-relevant skills1

Gen Z’s confidence in their future remains strong
• 65 percent are confident in their personal future; only 21 percent are confident in the world’s future
• 84 percent believe their job prospects are equal to or better than their parents’ generation

Gen Z puts passion over profits
• 87 percent define success in five years as having a job that matches their passions
• 67 percent said success will be defined by focusing on what they love, regardless of how much money they make
• Only 30 percent said success will be defined by how much money they make

Gen Z knows skills matter
• 74 percent believe a skills-based education (e.g., trade skills, nursing, STEM, etc.) makes sense in today’s world
• 59 percent said they will be learning throughout their lifetime through schooling, training, etc.
• 61 percent said the top place to learn is on the job; 63 percent said in a hands-on lab

Gen Z has had a range of experiences with education during COVID-19
• 39 percent said coursework was less challenging with digital classes
• 34 percent said coursework was more challenging with digital classes
• 20 percent said coursework was the same with digital classes

Gen Z believes COVID-19 will impact the future of learning
• 58 percent believe education will suffer due to less time in the classroom
• 50 percent believe we will see increased inequality in the future due to lack of technology access

As part of the campaign, ECMC Group is launching an online experience at www.QuestionTheQuo.org that features data insights from the surveys and resources for learning more about the various educational paths.

* This article is also featured on eCampusNews

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