Magazine article University Business

Getting to Know Gen Z: Exploring a New Generation's Expectations for Higher Education: New Research Provides Insights into the Characteristics of Future Students

Magazine article University Business

Getting to Know Gen Z: Exploring a New Generation's Expectations for Higher Education: New Research Provides Insights into the Characteristics of Future Students

Article excerpt

A University Business Web Seminar Digest * Originally presented on October 20, 2015

Research shows that each generation sees more value in a college education than the one before. Even with the rising cost of higher education, this next generation of college students--Generation Z--is no exception. However, Gen Z does have different preferences and expectations for learning than previous generations. Colleges and universities need to have a solid understanding of this generation in order to meet their expectations and, ultimately, to enhance recruitment and retention. In this web seminar, presenters discussed the findings from a recent study conducted with 1,300 middle and high school students, ages 13 to 18, which provided a variety of insights on how colleges and universities can and should prepare for this next generation of students.

Lisa Malat: At Barnes & Noble College, we serve as a strategic partner to more than 4.4 million students and their faculty. We believe our job is to be a strategic partner for all of the schools we work with, supporting and enhancing their own missions and goals by being a strategic asset.

We had recently conducted research on millennials, but we were curious to better understand Generation Z. These are students who will be entering college next year. Also referred to as the Sharing Generation, they were born as early as the 1990s, or as late as 2000. Gen Z's oldest members are now in high school.

These students are used to finding what they need whenever they need it. They have grown up in an ultra-connected, fast-moving technological age. They are the ultimate do-it-yourselfers. If they have a question, they go find an answer.

Not long ago we partnered with the VCU Brand Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. We challenged their students to think about the future of the campus bookstore from multiple perspectives. They thought about the bookstore and higher education in general, contemplating if Apple was in charge, if Google was running the bookstore, If Target was a strategic partner, what would they be doing?

Although the students' ideas were different, they were all grounded in common insight: It was fueled by collaboration. When they talked about collaboration, they talked about not just being able to collaborate on their own campuses, but collaborating across the country, even internationally, with other students.

We must give Gen Z the opportunity to learn and feel challenged continuously. They want to learn through real-life experiences; they want to participate and engage. They talked about how they live within the dynamics of their social media worlds and social communities, but on campus they are expected to learn a completely different way.

To learn about Gen Z, we surveyed almost 1,300 middle and high school students living in 49 different states. The study was designed to explore attitudes, preferences and expectations regarding Gen Z's educational and learning experiences. We compiled the results into a report titled "Getting to Know Gen Z: Exploring Middle and High Schoolers' Expectations for Higher Education"

Tamara Vostok: What we found is that Gen Z is passionate about the importance and value of higher education. In fact, 89 percent rated a college education as valuable, and the No. 1 reason students select a college is because they believe it will prepare them for their career.

The majority of students--82 percent--are planning to head to college immediately after high school. Most don't know exactly which school they'll attend, but they have strong opinions on what type of school it will be. Seventy-seven percent plan to go to a four-year school; about 40 percent are considering a community college; and 20 per cent are thinking about a tech or a trade school.

They are not making these decisions lightly. They are digital natives, and they are going online to research all of their options. …

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