Half of Gen Z Students Question Whether College Is a Worthwhile Investment According to New Research from Modern Campus and Ruffalo Noel Levitz

Study Also Shows Most High School Students Start Preparing for College Before 10th Grade

TORONTO AND WASHINGTON —August 4, 2022 –While more than eight out of ten high school students say they are committed to finishing college, half of them wonder if college is worth the investment. This is according to Serving the Virtual Consumer: Exceeding High School Student Expectations in 2022, a study developed by Modern Campus and based on research conducted in partnership with Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL).

It explores the expectations, questions and doubts high school students across the United States face when preparing for college—and how these factors influence their decision to choose a college.

What’s clear is that Gen Z students prioritize return on their investment when exploring college or university pathways. Two thirds of survey respondents said they expect to be ready for the job market upon graduation, and almost half expect to have a job offer as soon as they graduate.

The report also explores how early high school students start thinking about college, and how far they’re willing to travel for higher education. The study found that college and university websites are students’ primary sources for research.

“This is a generation of true digital natives; they think and live online,” said Brian Kibby, chief executive officer at Modern Campus. “Understanding the factors that drive their decision-making—job outcomes, access to co-curricular activities, cost and program quality—can help colleges and universities tailor their marketing and communications mix to be responsive to learner and parent expectations.”

This report provides insight into what high school students expect from colleges, and sheds light on how colleges and universities can help prospective students see the value of enrolling at their institutions.

Additional Key Findings

  • 61% of respondents say they started college planning before they start 10th grade.
  • Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening is when students are most actively looking for information to plan their postsecondary journey.
  • 63% of high school students are considering out-of-state institutions.
  • High-ability students with GPAs over 3.6 are very likely to consider out-of-state institutions.
  • 46% of high school students confirm that they have participated in virtual college tours.
  • 66% reported having signed up for the virtual tour via the college website and 71% expressed satisfaction with the virtual tour.
  • The top three important topics for high school students when looking for college or university are academics, cost and financial aid.
  • While academics and cost remain the most important priorities regardless of age, 9th graders are particularly interested in community life, activities and athletics. Similarly, 10th graders are more interested in college rankings than any other age group.

To explore Serving the Virtual Consumer: Exceeding High School Student Expectations in 2022 in greater detail, visit: https://resources.moderncampus.com/serving-virtual-consumer.

Report Methodology/Respondent Profile

Between the middle of January to the end of February of 2022, high school students from all over the U.S. were invited to participate by PLEXUSS. 1,025 completed responses were received.

Almost half of the respondents were in 12th grade, more than three fourth were from public schools and one third were from southeast. 72% respondents were female and 65% first-generation students.

About Modern Campus  

Modern Campus is obsessed with empowering its nearly 2,000 higher education customers to thrive when radical transformation is required to respond to lower student enrollments and revenue, rising costs, crushing student debt, and administrative complexity. 

The Modern Campus engagement platform powers solutions for non-traditional student management, web content management, catalog and curriculum management, student engagement and development, conversational text messaging, career pathways, and campus maps and virtual tours. The result: innovative institutions can create a learner-to-earner lifecycle that engages modern learners for life, while providing modern administrators with the tools needed to streamline workflows and drive high efficiency. 

Modern Campus Presence empowers institutions to map and understand the entire student journey from Day 1, enabling learners to create learning pathways and gamify the earning of essential skills - all while streamlining organizational processes, collecting massive participation data, and assessing the impact you have on retention. 

Learn how Modern Campus is leading the modern learner engagement movement at moderncampus.com and follow us on LinkedIn.

About RNL

RNL is the leading provider of higher education enrollment, student success, and fundraising solutions. The firm serves more than 1,900 colleges and universities through data-driven solutions focused on the entire lifecycle of enrollment and fundraising, assuring students find the right program, graduate on time, secure their first job in their chosen field, and give back to support the next generation. With a deep knowledge of the industry, RNL provides institutions the ability to scale their efforts by tapping into a community of support and resources. Visit RuffaloNL.com.

Last updated: August 4, 2022

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