Faced with alarmingly high college tuition rates and the prospect of incurring larger sums of student debt, the rising generation of soon-to-be adults is ready to forgo higher education altogether. Is this what its all come to?

By Kristi Pahr
November 12, 2019
Credit: Getty Images

For people who came of age in the last half of the 20th century, it was accepted that the sure path to success was a college degree. The consensus was that if you got a bachelor’s degree when you left college you were pretty much guaranteed a good job with a stable income and great benefits—the first step on the path of the American Dream. 

But times change and an undergrad degree doesn’t hold the same promise that it used to, as anyone entering the workforce can tell you. Unpaid internships litter the job market, forcing young adults to take gig work or accept assistance from their parents to make ends meet. It should come as no surprise then, that a significant number of high school students are taking a more pragmatic view than their parents and grandparents.

A new study from the AP-NORC took a look at how high schoolers and young adults feel about higher education and the results held a few surprises. According to the study, nearly half of the students surveyed (45%) said they felt that a high school diploma prepared them adequately for the job market in today’s economy. A similar number (47%) said the same about Associate’s degrees.

Obtaining vocational degrees or certificates has always been a practical and cost-effective way for young people to learn a skilled trade and enter the workforce. And considering the rising cost of college tuition and the looming student loan crisis, it’s not surprising that an increasing number of students might be leaning towards Associates degrees than did in previous years.

The survey did show that 61% of teens plan to attend a traditional four-year college and that 50% of teens felt pressure from their parents to do so. Interestingly, 77% of teens say their parents plan to provide financial assistance to help pay for college while only 52% of young adults say they actually received help from their parents to pay for college.

It was also determined that a vast number of those surveyed worried about making enough money to support themselves in today’s workforce. Forty-seven percent of young people are concerned about taking on college debt and 62% are concerned about their financial security in the future.

On the whole, it seems like even though a majority of teens and young people attended or plan to attend a traditional 4 year school, they are skeptical of the value it holds and the benefit it will provide them in the long run. Considering this trend, it might be time for parents and students to look more seriously at the benefits of vocational schools and community colleges and compare the benefits of learning a trade in lieu of pursuing that Bachelor’s degree.


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