The iGen Shift: Colleges Are Changing to Reach the Next Generation

TalkingEDU_Logo-576877-editedNow, with Millennial graduates dominating the labor force, higher education institutions must meet the cultural and technological demands of this next generation of students if they are to successfully recruit, accommodate and matriculate students.

In The iGen Shift: Colleges Are Changing to Reach the Next Generation, Laura Pappano, writing for The New York Times, takes a closer look at what she calls “college-bound iGens  or (Gen Zers, if you prefer)” -  that is, those students born between 1995 and 2012 who are in or just now entering colleges and universities across the country. These Gen Zers are “driving shifts, subtle and not, in how colleges serve, guide and educate them.” 

Educators and administrators should be wary of mistaking this new generation as “Millennials 2.0.” Unlike many millennials who grew up in the “prosperous nineties,” many Gen Zers witnessed first-hand the impact of the “great recession.” For this reason they are less likely to take risks and are more focused on finding a career and avoiding student debt.

Gen Zers

  • Were in grade school when the iPhone was introduced
  • Were “raised amid the tailored analytics of online retailers or college recruiters” and “presume that anything put in front of them is customized for them”
  • Have “grown up with public successes and failures online” and “are hungry to have a big impact, yet worry they will not live up to that expectation”
  • “Favor videos over static content”
  • “Expect to be treated as individuals”
  • Are “a generation that rarely reads books or emails, breathes through social media, feels isolated and stressed but is crazy driven and wants to solve the world’s problems”
  • “Are forcing course makeovers (and) spurring increased investments in mental health”
  • “Are a frugal but ambitious lot, less excited by climbing walls and en suite kitchens than by career development”
  • Are “pushing academics to be more hands-on and job-relevant"
  • “Want to navigate campus life, getting food or help, when it is convenient for them”

The Bottom Line

While often described as a bastion of the liberal elite or an ivory tower, higher ed has not been able to avoid the cultural and technological changes the country and business community have had to go through. The demand for measurable outcomes by students and parents, the increased oversight of state and federal government (even as funding from both has decreased precipitously) and the push and pull for a culture that better reflects a more diverse student population have driven a whole host of changes in higher education over the past thirty years. But, the greatest challenge facing administrators and faculty alike may be staying on top of the myriad expectations of each successive generation.

Pappano shares some of the innovations that Purdue University, San Diego University, Ohio State, Wellesley College, and more have come up with to accommodate this next generation. To view the complete article click here.

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