Report: Gen Z Open to Nontraditional Education

June 25, 2020

The following article is from Inside Higher Ed

Students in Generation Z believe that higher education is important, but many are interested in taking alternative routes to the traditional four-year degree, according to a new study.

ECMC Group, a nonprofit focused on student success, partnered with Vice Media to survey 2,200 high schoolers ages 14 to 18 in late February and mid-May. Some of the results and additional resources are on the website

More than half of the respondents said they are open to pursuing something other than a four-year degree, and 70 percent want to follow their own educational path. Less than one-quarter said a four-year college is the only path to a decent job.

"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," Jeremy Wheaton, president and CEO of ECMC Group, said in a news release. "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."

Many of the respondents -- 74 percent -- believe an education based in things like trade skills, nursing or science, technology, engineering and mathematics makes sense. More than half said the best place to learn is on the job. A little less than half expect companies to provide formal education to upgrade their skills.

At the same time, 64 percent worry about how they'll pay for higher education. And while 65 percent are confident about their personal futures, less than one-quarter are confident in the future of the world.

Their experiences during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led half or more to believe education will suffer if less time is spent in the classroom, and that inequality will increase due to inequitable access to technology.