According to a new report from Yardeni Research, Generation Z, or the “post-millennial” generation, is likely “the most self-educated generation yet.”
Only 64 percent have their eyes on an advanced degree, with a significant portion of Gen Zers considering “less expensive alternatives to traditional schooling.” This could include online education, trade schools, or apprenticeships. Meanwhile, more than 7 out of 10 of their millennial counterparts believe in traditional higher ed options.
The “instinctively digital” Gen Zers are looking to Google and YouTube to develop new skills in what experts refer to as “hackschooling.”
Similar to the silent generation, who never forgot about the hard days of the Great Depression, Generation Z witnessed their parents’ financial hardships during the Great Recession of the late 2000s. They don’t want to take on more debt than they need, and as the cost of a four-year college education continues to skyrocket, they are exploring unconventional alternatives to a bachelor's degree.
They’ve also learned from the experiences of the millennial generation.
“These are children who’ve grown up watching the generation before them struggle in terms of finding jobs and being saddled with student debt,” Melissa Tagg, director of research and operations for Yardeni, told Yahoo Finance. “These are industrious young adults that have had incredible access to things like YouTube and MOOCs (massive open online courses). … Gen Z have really grown up with all this access to technology and a lot don’t even remember the days before the smartphone.”
Self-education demands both curiosity and discipline — traits that this generation seems to possess. The Yardeni report calls Gen Z “motivated and self-directed.” It helps that they are financially savvy as well.
In a 2017 study by the Center for Generational Kinetics, 23 percent of Gen Z respondents said that personal debt should be avoided at all costs. This undoubtedly extends to student debt, which has consumed their millennial predecessors. As a result, even college-bound millennials are making smarter, more pragmatic decisions about their school choice.
"Generation Z is intentionally choosing to attend a less-expensive college so they can graduate with less debt," Jason Dorsey, president of the Center for Generational Kinetic, told Mic.
Could the Trump administration be striking a chord with the newest generation of job seekers in its push for alternative career training paths? Gen Z, anxious for financial security, has started to snub academia and may be the generation that finally fills the lucrative technical and blue-collar jobs that have remained vacant in America’s booming economy.
Brendan Pringle (@BrendanPringle) is writer from California. He is a National Journalism Center graduate and formerly served as a development officer for Young America's Foundation at the Reagan Ranch.