Why community colleges are a top contender for Gen Z
Generation Z is the first fully digital generation. They’ve lived through the recession, national tragedies, and wars. They are also practical and curious and ready to chart a new course in higher education. Gen Z is the largest college going generation, but their expectations for higher education are much different than previous ones. Less altruistic and value-driven than millennials, Gen Z sees higher education as a critical step along the path to a better career.
While this offers some hope to colleges facing declining enrollment, marketing a college education to Gen Z will require a different strategy that reaching the Millennials. Gen Z wants to graduate with as little debt as possible and a degree that lets them land a competitive high-paying job. As the best bargain in career-focused education, community colleges are well-placed to make this happen. However, to capture the attention of this demographic, community college is going to have to embrace the digital revolution.
Gen Z understands the importance of a college education
Gen Z values higher education a great deal. The Barnes & Noble College study shows that 89% consider a college education as valuable, and 82% plan to go from high school directly to college. This makes them the largest college going generation yet. As they try to choose between colleges they are likely to use online college resources, like College Greenlight, MyMajors, and College Board, and to visit individual college webpages. They will also speak to people whose advice they trust, like teachers, counselors, family members and friends.
Gen Z worries about student debt
Generation X, Generation Z’s parents, indicated on a reported in a recent survey done by the National Association of Realtors that their student loans totaled around $30,000. This was the highest of any generation surveyed. It had a noticeable impact on their ability to make major purchases, like a home. Generation Z is wary of accruing large amounts of college debt that could limit their options as adults. Therefore, they are attentive to consumer information about the cost of a degree and financial aid options.
Gen Z’s number one concern related to college is finding a good job afterwards
Gen Z grew up during the great recession and have a practical approach to college education. Unlike previous generations they don’t think that simply obtaining a degree is enough to find them a job. Despite the economy’s growth trajectory, Gen Z is acutely aware of how their choice of major will affect their ability to find a job. They report that their number one concern related to college is finding a good job after graduation. This makes Gen Z far more financially driven than Millennials, who define success in terms of personal fulfillment rather than financial benchmarks.
Gen Z will make good students
Generation Z is the first fully digital generation They also are naturally curious, independent, and able to process large amounts of information quickly, all good attributes in college students. They are also predisposed to learning and conducting research, probably because their technological savvy has allowed them to seek out information on their own from a young age. Almost 50% of Generation Z students between 16-18 report that they have already begun taking some college courses to increase their desirability to the universities to which they apply, and 84% of younger teens plan to take a course for college credit.
Education-Tech is here to stay
Generation Z is used to using technology to have an interactive and hands-on learning experience, and they expect to continue using technology in college classrooms. However, they still report valuing time spent learning collaboratively with peers and from teachers. Gen Z uses technology as one part of a multifaced learning experience. From studying with friends over Skype to using game-based learning systems and digital textbooks, Gen Z seamlessly transitions between digital and traditional learning systems.
Nearly half of Gen Z is considering community college, tech or trade school
One of the findings in the Barnes & Noble study is of particular significance to community colleges. The survey showed that 39% of Generation Z is considering community college, and 22% are considering tech or trade school. While some of these students are looking at four-year colleges as well, community colleges are on their radar. This make sense, because just starting a degree at a community college can translate into big savings down the road. And, increasingly students are also realizing that career credentials, like a B.S.N. or a welding certification without a four-year degree will get them the kind of career they want.
The community college advantage
By and large the trends the study documents are encouraging, particularly for community colleges hoping to recruit either transfer students or degree-seeking students. Giving the ballooning costs of higher education, getting started at an affordable community college has never been smarter. Gen Z has noticed, and they are very responsive to the fiscal advantages and career-focused courses offered by community colleges.
Gen Z is turning the old stereotypes about community college upside down. They want degrees that will help them land solid careers without the crippling debt that burdened their parents. They are going online looking for reliable and career-oriented information about what a community college has to offer. With the right marketing strategy community colleges are ideally placed to capture these practical and budget conscious consumers.