• Jordan Massey

In Their Own Words: For Some Gen Zers, the Value of a College Degree Is Murky

Updated: Aug 14

For eighteen years now, people have been telling me about the importance of going to college, so I really wanted to know, “What is the point of going?” 


There are some obvious plusses, but there are also horror stories of the crushing college debt that many are faced with. As a high school senior who is about to enter college, I wanted to know what my Gen Z peers thought about it, so I asked them.


As the National Association for College Admission Counseling wrote, Generation Z is highly concerned with the cost of college, and rightfully so. According to CNBC, "In 2012, 71 percent of graduates from four-year colleges carried debt, with students at public schools owing an average of $25,550 and those with degrees from private colleges owing an average of $32,300…” 


However, concerned Gen Z might be, we are still going. As I asked my friends about what they thought the point of college was, I got many different answers:

My graduation photo

“The point of college is to have a focused understanding of what your future career could entail. As well as know everything you would need to know to be successful.”


“The point of college is to get ahead in life. A college degree puts a person ‘higher up on the food chain’ so to speak and can substantially help them get a stable job and make a larger income compared to someone without a degree.” 


Some talked about how it is important to gain expertise in your desired field, even though they believe people in America switch fields multiple times throughout their working lives. Others emphasized the importance of the opportunities college can present to you, such as internships and connections. 


Overwhelmingly, however, at least in some way, all of my peers' answers included the idea that a college degree will guarantee you a job and a better salary than if you only had your GED or high school diploma. 


Gen Zers still see the prestige and respect of a degree. My peers and I know the worth of that piece of paper hung up in a nice frame on the wall. We have seen them everywhere! Every doctor's office and classroom has one beautifully hung on the walls for everyone to see. They want us to know what they have accomplished, and maybe, on some level, they have been quietly embedding in us the need to have one as well. 


Maybe hearing adults talk about college as a child sets up the idea that we will have that experience, too. Before we even know what college is we are impassioned about it! Personally I have been dressed up in West Virginia University merchandise since I was a baby. My parents, aunts and uncles and even grandparents all went there. I did not know much when I was five, but I sure knew what West Virginia University was.


So, what is the point of college? My informal study of peers showed three primary themes:

  1. Higher-paying jobs in the future 

  2. Opportunities and expertise in the field we desire to enter into

  3. We feel we have to

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Jordan Massey is interning for JDMA Inc. this summer. Ms. Massey will be entering her Freshman year at Marist College in the fall, where she will major in Political Science with the intention of attending law school once she finishes her undergraduate studies. Ms. Massey graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA and was a member of multiple honors societies.

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