The younger generation faces a new college and career reality

Even knowing that the return on a college education investment is good, loans and debt can seem insurmountable

Gen Z is now approaching college age, and attitudes about higher education are changing. Students say they are interested in becoming  entrepreneurs, firefighters, construction workers, etc, which do not require a college degree.

“Americans across partisan lines worry about high tuition and student debt in an economy that most think is rigged to benefit the wealthy,” a Public Agenda survey showed. “Most see college education as time-consuming and see colleges as stuck in the past.”

The results of Public Agenda’s May, 2022 nationally representative survey shows that the new generation is doubting whether college is worth the struggle. Gen Z has a new perspective on a “successful career.”

“I don’t really see the need to go to college. You could be successful without going to college,” Monica Aleman, a senior said. “It’s just a waste of money and time.”

Times have changed and so have people; young people nowadays are finding a different lifestyle such as being influencers, and other new forms of entrepreneurship that they consider successful and that doesn’t involve the college path. 

But there are still students who do want to pursue a higher education.

“I want to go to college because I want to be a nurse, but I’m not sure if I want to because if I do become a nurse, I might be in a lot of debt, which will make me broke,” sophomore Lisania Lemus said.

Money is the main obstacle preventing young people from accomplishing their dreams, since life revolves around money.

“College is still generally the best pathway to higher-paying careers, with lifetime earnings 84% higher for college graduates than for those whose highest degree is a high school diploma,” according to an October 2022 Fortune article citing U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS).

For a high paying career students should consider college, but because of unaffordable prices students are choosing other life paths, like going straight to work and then maybe saving up for an education they want to pursue later.

“I think that there is tremendous value in college education,” English teacher and coach Natalie Williams said, adding, “I think that there are careers that don’t require a college education.”

According to the U.S. BLS, “those with bachelor’s degrees earned a median of $1,305 a week, while high school graduates earned $781. Annually, that amounts to a difference of nearly $30,000.”

U.S BLS found that 38 percent of students didn’t enroll because of fears about the cost of college and amassing debt, 27 percent felt college would be “too stressful” or “too much pressure,” 26 percent believed it was more important to work and earn money, and 25 percent felt uncertainty about their career.

College Coordinator Donald Wilhite gave options to handle the financial aspect of college without drowning in student debt. He said FASFA can earn students up to $7,000 per year depending on their financial situation. Wilhite added that there are more specific options for D.C. students where they could earn up to $8,000 to attend UDC.

For those who do not want to attend college for financial reasons, there are resources available to help pay for tuition. There are endless scholarships and grants available for students to attend college and be successful without worrying about debt.

“To fix the Return On Investment equation for college-goers, we must make higher education more affordable,” the Fortune article suggested. “The reality is that free college is already within reach for millions of Americans—but only if we count two-year college degrees.”

The historic class of 2020 is documented in Roosevelt’s yearbook. Today’s seniors are asking harder questions about the value of college, given the new landscape of high costs and inflation.