Amidst a global pandemic, American teenagers remain steadfast in their belief that higher education plays a key role in their future success; however, the 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 were conducted Feb. 25 to March 2, 2020, and May 14-20, 2020—before and during the pandemic—and polled more than 2,200 high schoolers ages 14 to 18.
“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,” said 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; and
- 46 percent expect companies to provide formal education that upgrades work-relevant skills.
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.; and
- 61 percent said the top place to learn is on the job, while 63 percent said in a hands-on lab.
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; and
- 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; and
- Only 30 percent said success will be defined by how much money they make.
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.