Gen Z Overcoming Recent Learning Losses With Desire to Fund Practical Higher Education

Facebook icon Twitter icon Print icon Email icon


May 17, 2022

With back and forth lockdowns and social isolation, high school students experienced a halt to consistent education for nearly two years. 

That halt looked like: 

  • A strong decline in learning processes in students, especially for low-income students
  • Reduced learning opportunities
  • Loss of already acquired skills due to school closures
  • Loss of skills in math
  • Rise in passive activities (TV, phone, video games)

But a report from the College Savings Foundation reveals an ardent drive from Gen Z students to reclaim control of their education by aggressively targeting and planning to fund the most practical higher education paths to get the careers they want. 

Let’s discuss some key findings from the CSF’s survey, and examine what practical higher education looks like to the students surveyed. 

A Drive to Work and Fund College Education

Every year, the CSF surveys over 1,000 high school kids (seniors, sophomores, and juniors). In 2022, the survey reported a large subset of students eager to:

  • Fund practical education paths
  • Achieve high-paying jobs post-graduation

What’s curious about this year’s survey is the high number of students eager to fund their own education:

  • 82% plan to work full-time; 59% part-time; 61% already working to fund education
  • 22% of students have already saved over $5,000 for college; 50% saved between $1,000-$5,000
  • 66% plan to live at home
  • 21% of families are using 529 plans

Gen Z clearly has a practical, saving mentality regarding many aspects of higher education. The drive to work hard and fund their education may be influenced with the predicted increase in Federal student loan interest rates

Gen Z’s Practical Education: Desired Majors and Curriculum Features

The market clearly favors students with technical backgrounds, with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science belonging to some of 2022’s most in-demand skills. 

To survey respondents, technical programs are a key factor in their ideal education path. 63% also noted that they saw trade school and apprenticeship programs as equal to other college programs — the highest proportion in the survey’s history. 

Here are a few other demands students have for colleges: 

  • Real-world work experience in classes
  • Contemporary-based testing that leads to quicker graduation
  • Credits for work experience

This desire for a pragmatic college education can easily link to the above findings noting students’ desire to fund and save for practical education. With increased student loan interests and some industries promising more lucrative salaries, students aren’t interested in spending years post-graduation paying off student loans. In fact, 24% of respondents changed their college plans because of debt considerations.

Final Thoughts

This year’s CSF survey is a loud-and-clear message from students to colleges and lenders: 

We don’t want debt, and we’re willing to change our college majors, enrollment schedules, and curriculum expectations to avoid it.

A good place to start:

See the best 529 plans, personalized for you

A good place to start:

See the best 529 plans, personalized for you