Written by Joanna Hughes

In a recent Huffington Post piece on key differences between Gen Z and Millennials, George Beall suggested that young people in the future were more likely to opt out of "the traditional route of higher education.” And while he said some of these "early starters" would eventually finish online, others would eschew formal higher ed completely for more affordable and convenient alternatives.

Now, a study on Gen Z in the US and the UK sheds further light on the issue. Its assertion? That Gen Z will actually surpass previous generations in terms of college attendance. Here’s a closer look at the findings.

Beyond Generation Y

The eyes of the world have long been on Generation Y, otherwise known as millennials. However, attention is shifting to what’s next: Generation Z. Which begs the question, what are they like? In 'The Radically Different World of Generation Z,' consultancy Sparks & Honey says, “In many ways Gen Zers are the opposites or extreme versions of Millennials….We are just beginning to understand Gen Z and its impact on the future.”

The Education Imperative

Generation Z members have been first-hand witnesses to Millennials struggle with money, careers and housing, so how has this impacted their viewpoint? According to the report, a full half of Generation Zers will be university educated compared to just a third of Millennials and a quarter of generation Xers. These findings are backed by Ucas figures indicating that record numbers of teens are enrolling in universities in England and Scotland.  Furthermore, the number of students in higher education more than doubled between 2000 and 2014.

And it doesn’t end with the undergraduate years: 64 percent of Gen Xers cite “earning an advanced degree” as one of their life goals.

This is not to say that Generation Z views education the same way their predecessors did. They seek not only to educate themselves, but knowledge, and also value self-directed, collaborative learning.

At the same time, Gen Zers are also looking beyond college degrees: 61 percent of high school students aspire to be entrepreneurs while 72 percent of them want to start their own businesses some day. The takeaway, according to the report? “Entrepreneurship is in their DNA.”

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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