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For Gen Z, it’s all about the Benjamins

Fortune Magazine published an interesting article regarding college-age Gen Z adults. The article explores the idea that more young adults are going to trade schools rather than colleges because a job in the trades is “a straight path to a six-figure job.”

I have been saying for a very long time that community colleges have done an exceptionally poor job of keeping up with the market. Community college executives have been so invested in meeting the needs of employers that they cannot see the value in meeting the needs of prospective employees.

People need money to live. (See how simple that is?)

This is the message our economy and our post-secondary system of education sends to young adults:

You cannot get to (or remain in) the middle class without having a very good job. Getting a very good job means getting a post-secondary education. To get a post-secondary education, you must be willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars that, as a young adult fresh out of high school, you don’t have. To get the tens of thousands of dollars that enables you to get the education that facilitates a good job, you must be willing to borrow, and then repay an unknown amount of money that could resemble anything from a new car loan to a mortgage loan, and for the most part, you must be willing to repay these debts over ten years – or possibly 25, depending upon what you studied in school. During this repayment period, you may not be able to live independently from your parents, buy a car, buy a house, start a family, or go back to school.

Does that sound like a message you want to hear?

Community colleges need to start addressing Gen Z concerns

It’s no surprise that Gen Z adults want to bypass this tortured path to the middle class. Community colleges could fill their classrooms to the point of violating the fire code if community colleges offered academic programs that enabled students to earn a comfortable living after completion.

If executives need to demonstrate to themselves that income potential is a deciding factor for prospective students, community colleges could develop 3-5 60-credit academic programs that focus on preparing students to fill high-wage, high-demand jobs. This means entry level work that pays at least $50,000-$60,000 per year. The tuition and materials for these programs should be exceptionally cost-friendly to students. Course scheduling should include day and evening 7.5- or 8-week options that allow full-time students to finish the program in one calendar year, and similar options for part-time students to finish the program in two calendar years.

It’s really not that hard to figure out. It’s about money, and until community college executives give people reasons to enroll, their classrooms will remain empty.

Photo Credit: Web Summit