Survey: Young people want solid outcomes from their higher education

Tim Grant, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Business News

A different kind of high school student is headed to college now.

The graduating seniors who will be entering into post-secondary education and training over the next few years care less about ivy-covered prestige and more about saving money, keeping costs down and college debt at a bare minimum, even if it means living at home.

In a national survey of more than 1,000 high school seniors, juniors and sophomores, the Washington, D.C.-based College Savings Foundation found they want more practical and functional education options that are tied to real work experience and the possibility of finishing their requirements faster.

The two years of disrupted schooling caused by the pandemic appears to have reshaped young people's idea of what higher education looks like. Generation Z students, or "zoomers" born between 1995 and 2012 have expressed the highest level of appreciation — 63% — for technical and career education or apprenticeship programs as a viable alternative to four-year college than ever before.

"This year's survey reflects more maturity, a real growing up of young people and their view towards the role of education after high school," said Vivian Tsai, chair of the College Savings Foundation.

This survey marks the 13th annual nationwide study of high school students' attitudes toward saving for, selecting and paying for college.


Ms. Tsai said survey results from 2019 and 2020 indicated high school students viewed college as a next chronological step in growing up. They looked forward to the independence from their parents, moving into their dorms, experiencing a new phase of life and having fun with a whole new set of friends.

"The reality of 2020, 2021 and now 2022 has indicated that that view of college is a bit stale at this point because the reality is that college is a four-year preparation for real life," Ms. Tsai said.

"I think many of our kids have seen that real life is a lot more difficult today than it was five years ago."

Keeping higher education costs low was a consistent theme in this year's canvass of the college planning landscape.


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