Almost half of Gen Zers believe financial independence is the first marker of adulthood, but getting there is easier said than done. Having grown up before our very eyes, Gen Zers are already entering and even graduating college, bringing with them goals, determination, and no fear of questioning even the most enduring educational standard – college itself.
Since the G.I. Bill was signed into law in 1944, total college enrollment in the US has steadily grown. College opportunities were booming thanks to this bill, giving million of returning veterans the education they deserve and setting a powerful national standard. By 2011, 20.4 million students were enrolled in college – 6.5% of the population. Yet academic year 2016 told a very different story. At this point, only 19.2 million students were working on college programs; one of the most alarming dips in overall enrollment in 70 years.
Nearly 80% of adults agree that it’s harder than ever for young people to get started in life. In the words of young adults describing their biggest obstacles, 37% say finances, 25% say education, and 20% say career are the top challenges they face. It’s no wonder the college question is weighing on their minds. Over the last seven decades, the total cost of an advanced degree has grown more than eight times, but wages in these careers have only less than doubled. During this same time, skilled laborers without a degree are earning three times more today. Students in non-degree certificate programs show much lower rates of student loan debt upon graduation while facilitating some of the most popular and fastest growing careers.
Rethinking the American dream and redefining what it means to be successful is never easy; the status quo is a stubborn force. As students begin to look towards the road less traveled to build careers for themselves, they also begin to embrace the value, not the price, of higher education. Take a look at this infographic for more on the past, present, and future of college enrollment – and what it’s worth to students.