Gen Z is aggressively trying to fix the student debt crisis

Photo: Bonnie Kittle

Research indicates that Generation Z is determined to squash the student debt crisis.

They plan to do this by fine-tuning their financial literacy, actively saving and making career sacrifices.  If there is a silver lining to the great recession of 2008 it’s to be found in our youngest crop of working-class adults.

To examine this further the number one career community for college students, Handshake conducted a massive survey of over 1,000 US college students. Unlike the generation that precedes them Gen Z appears to be much more pragmatic when it comes to securing work after college.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said that they would accept a job offer even if they weren’t passionate about the work so long as it meant that they would pay off their student loans sooner.

An additional 62% said they would accept the first offer that came their way for the very same reason and 25% reported that they are “very willing” to relocate if it’s a prerequisite for a position.

Handshake reports: “Every generation is marked with its economic challenges, and for Gen Z, it’s about the rising costs of higher education that are driving debt loads higher, paired with the flattened salary growth curve over the past two decades versus inflation. Approximately three quarters of our survey respondents will have debt upon graduation: 37.9% will have under $25,000, 23.7% between $25,000 to $49,999, 8.4% ranging $50,000-$99,999 and 3.5% will have more than $100,000. ”

Debt and the coming job market

The new poll was conducted between October 17th and October 22nd, 2019 and included 1,004 US college students. The respondents ranged in age from 16 to 24 and represented every state save Vermont.

Although student loan debt was an immediate concern for most of the undergraduates surveyed, it was by no means the only one. The top six anxieties about life after college were as follows:

Paying off loans

20.1%

Trouble finding a job

25.1%

Living off a low salary

14.3%

Not feeling prepared to enter the workforce

16.6%

Living up to parent’s expectations

9.9%

Social pressure to find a “good” job

14%

 

An overwhelming majority believed that it is much harder to land a job now than it was for their parents’ generation.

Competition and job ambiguity are at an all-time high. Industries are having a difficult time defining roles in a market that is trying to cater to the proletariat, degree earners and the future of automation all at once.

Alongside this, Generation Z is haunted by the financial collapse that occurred more than a decade ago. In fact, 57.7% of the college students surveyed said that they are actively fearful that another recession is just around the corner.

“Perhaps their outlook is influenced in part by their family’s experience of the Great Recession of 2008: 16.4% of respondents said one parent lost a job, 7.9% reported both parents lost their jobs and 20.1% said one or both parents lost wages as a result,” the study explains.

This trepidation isn’t only exercised through pragmatism. Not only is Gen Z willing to accept the first job offer that they receive after graduation, but they’re also investing in the work to ensure that they’re qualified enough to honor said offer.

Thirty-six percent of the participants polled plan on completing two to three internships before graduation and more than 75% will complete at least one.

“This recent survey confirms the problematic truth that Gen Z has student loan debt on the top of their minds when making career choices. But at the same time, it’s important that future employers continue to take measures to understand what else motivates and inspires Gen Z. This generation is certainly the most technologically advanced generation to date, and they are also the most demographically diverse. So it’s important to keep these factors in mind, and Handshake also recommends including Gen Z’ers on recruiting and hiring committees to ensure that programs are finely tuned for this population,” the authors wrote.

More From Ladders