Will Generation Z skip college?

Business Insider reports “a growing number of Gen Zers have decided to skip college altogether.”

“Four million fewer teens are enrolled in college in 2022 than in 2012.”

For many, the price has become too high to justify the cost. From 2010 to 2022, university fees rose by an average of 12% per year, while overall inflation increased by an average of only 2.6% per year. Today it costs at least $104,108 on average to attend a four-year public university — and $223,360 at a private university.

Meanwhile, the salaries students can expect to receive after graduation are not keeping up with the cost of college. A 2019 report from the Pew Research Center found that earnings for young college-educated workers have remained mostly flat over the past 50 years. Four years after graduation, according to recent data from the Higher Education Commission, a third of students earn less than $40,000 — less than the $44,356 average salary earned by workers with only a high school diploma. Consider the average $33,500 in student debt that college graduates owe after leaving school, and many graduates will spend years catching up to their counterparts with lesser degrees. This financial gap caused by student debt leaves more young graduates with lower net worths than previous generations.

The widening gap between the value and cost of college has begun to change Generation Z’s attitude toward higher education. A 2022 Morning Consult poll found that 41% of Gen Z said they “tend to trust U.S. colleges and universities,” the lowest percentage of any generation. It’s a big shift from where Millennials were a decade ago: A 2014 Pew Research poll found that 63% of Millennials value a college education or plan to get one. Of those who graduated, 41% of that group considered their education to be “very helpful” in preparing them to enter the workforce – this compares to 45% of Generation X and 47% of Boomers who felt the same…

The focus now, especially in the midst of so much uncertainty in the economy, is on using college to prepare for one important goal: getting a good job.
The article argues that this is changing the classroom focus of students and colleges. For example, in 2014, computer programming was the seventh most popular major at UC Berkeley, but it now ranks first. The data science degree created by Berkeley five years ago is now the third most popular degree.

Meanwhile, “last year, only 7% of Harvard freshmen planned to major in the humanities — down from 20% a decade ago and about 30% in the 1970s.”

Thanks to a long-time Slashdot reader who used it to share the article.

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