To Be or Not to Be (a College Grad), That Is the Question

TD Ameritrade recently conducted a study in which it surveyed over 3,000 U.S. teens and adults, including approximately 1,000 Gen Z (ages 15 to 21), 1,000 young millennials (ages 22 to 28), and 1,000 parents (ages 30 to 60).

The results are eye-opening in terms of the changing view of the value of college.

  • 96% of parents said they do expect their kids to go to college.
  • About one in five Gen Z and young millennials say they may choose not to go to college.
  • Over 30% of Gen Z — and 18% of young millennials — said they have considered taking a gap year between high school and college.
  • 89% of Gen Z, along with nearly 79% of young millennials, have considered an education path that looks different from a four-year degree directly out of high school.
  • Slightly over one in four young millennials say they are delaying college due to the cost
  • 73% of Gen Z and young Americans say “they chose or would choose a less expensive college to avoid debt.
  • More than a third of young millennials and 48% of Gen Z say a part-time job helps them pay for their education.
  • 49% of young millennials said their degree was “very or somewhat unimportant” to their current job.; only 27% of parents said the same.

So what does all this mean?

My sense is that high school students today are making a more informed decision about college. No longer do many of them just assume that college is the next step for them. They are more open to looking at other options, such as delaying college for a year, taking online courses, going to community college, commuting to college, going to trade school.

Such options could have a major impact on the traditional four-year, residential college experience that many parents have opted for in the past, often assuming that such a path was the only one to follow.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

My sense is that the results of the survey see to suggest that there will be a drop in the number of students following the same path as their parents. This will force many smaller traditional colleges that struggle to get students to close their doors. The closing of such colleges would seem to naturally lead to the need for fewer college teachers.

I think Harvard will always be Harvard, and they will always have a demand for what they offer.

But Joe’s College of the Four Winds*, I’m not so sure.

Higher ed seems to have been immune from many of the demographic and economic changes that have taken place over the past several years, but it seems like that is about to change.



12 thoughts on “To Be or Not to Be (a College Grad), That Is the Question

  1. I was relieved when my younger son said he didn’t want to go to university – he just wasn’t ready to make the best of that experience. Neither was I, and in fact I didn’t go – to the annoyance of our headmistress.
    Although I did achieve a professional qualification in my twenties, I didn’t take a degree course until my late thirties – early forties. I actually enjoyed learning at that point, unlike my late teens when I was bored stupid and just wanted to get a way from education.
    My son is now actively putting himself forward for courses because he sees the point of them. If he’d gone to university back in his teens and twenties he’d have found the nearest group of druggies and dropped out. Now he has a practical career and experience to inform his learning. (Would that our politicians had the same…)


  2. While it is good that students are making more informed decisions, I believe that college is important and should be a weighted choice. There are some good courses that are important such as engineering, business and education. However, if a person should take one of these staple courses should still be up to them, depending on the path in life they chise to take.


    1. thanks for your comment, jomz. and yes, there certainly is value in college, but how, when, and where one goes to college seems to be changing a bit from the traditional model.


  3. I certainly agree with taking at least a year off between high school and college. I have been an advocate of this thinking for almost 50 years. On that time off the child should work or volunteer to get a taste of life away from school. Maybe even a variety of opportunities. They may find something that is a passion and that just makes it that much better when they do decide and pursue that dream.


  4. So many more options for kids now even before college. Many students are attending alternative schools, charter schools, and going the home school route. The one thing that educators need to be cognizant of is one size does not fit all.


  5. I embedded college in my daughter in elementary school, she didn’t have a choice. She will be graduating in Dec, once you earn your degree it can not be taken. Where in life you many things can be taken away. Even when you die you still have earned your degree. My only concern now is cost. The student loan debt is way to high. I think a higher education is the only way to go


    1. my dad always said the same thing to me – you can never take your education away from you.

      but as you also note, such a benefit often comes with a high price tag.

      and it seems as if people are taking a closer look at that cost-benefit relationship.


Comments are closed.