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Latest Trends Impacting Marketing and Higher Education
from Director of UPCEA's Center for Research and Strategy, Jim Fong

Generational Politics and the New 4th Edition of ‘An Insider’s Guide to Generation Z’

Generation Z is amazing and not annoying; social and not selfish; inclusive and not isolated; informed and not ignorant. They are resourceful individuals and savvy, informed consumers. They are far different from the often-misunderstood Millennial, yet are often classified similarly. 

Generation Z is gaining a lot of attention, yet they remain a mystery to many. Generation Z (or the iGeneration), born between the years of 1995 and 2005, are approximately 13 to 23 years of age at the time of this article. This generation is about sixty million strong and primarily in the latter stages of middle school, immersed in high school or college, or have recently graduated or chosen not to attend college. 

UPCEA just released the 4th edition of An Insider’s Guide to Generation Z, with the last issue written by me and four Generation Z’ers.  New to the 4th edition is:

  • A deeper understanding of the earlier research and additions through a perspective of the Generation Z authors. These Gen Z’ers provide insight into the research presented and commentary on the claims that are made. In the latest version, subjects such as micro-mobility, social media influencers, podcasts, esports, pets, and mental health. 
  • Greater insight on the understanding of either mental health challenges or a heightened awareness of how the mind and body of Generation Z are connected. Further insight on the mental health challenges of Generation Z were brought to the forefront at the 2019 UPCEA Annual Conference in Seattle where a panel of Generation Z women and their Generation X moms addressed a number of issues.

Generation Z is finding their voice. Unfortunately, the tragic events of Parkland and other school shootings has shown the generation how to gather via social networks and to have a strong physical presence through school walk-outs and other activities. In a study done by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2018, 75% of Generation Z report mass shootings as a significant source of stress. Other national issues that are significant stressors to them include rising suicide rates, climate change, the well-being of immigrant families, and sexual assault. With the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election, should a new president be elected, Generation Z will accelerate the rate of change in the issues mentioned above. With a close election expected in 2020, Generation Z could play a major role with 22 million new voters becoming eligible since the last election (in addition to the 23 million Gen Z voters that were eligible in 2016), despite their lower voter turnout rates. During this same time, while a dismal reality, about 36 million Boomers or those from the Great or Silent Generations will have died since the 2016 election. This loss is significant in terms of human lives, as well as electorally because individuals in these generations have had higher participation rates.

Generation Z will find their voice and the 2020 presidential election could be the trigger. Considering the APA report showed that 68% of Generation Z feel significantly stressed about the nation’s future, and 66% do not believe that the nation is moving toward becoming stronger, the time may have come for Generation Z to act. If the current president is re-elected, Generation Z, unlike their Millennial predecessors, will still create change, but likely at a slower pace. They will find their voice through other charges, such as renewable energy, climate change or social injustice. They will ultimately accelerate the need for change in our system of higher education in the U.S. and potentially worldwide. Colleges and universities, as evidenced with declining enrollments the past eight years and an increasing number of college closures and mergers, are lagging in a more rapidly changing economy. 

If tuition rates remain high and new technologies emerge, it is likely that Generation Z and Millennials will embrace alternative credentialing of education.  They already embrace a modular or deconstructed approach to many consumer products and services…why not education?

Click here to download An Insider’s Guide to Generation Z (4th Edition).

 

Jim Fong, UPCEA

Lead consultant Jim Fong, the founding director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, has extensive background in marketing at Penn State, as well as experience in private industry. Jim brings a rich understanding of the dynamics driving today’s higher education leaders, providing research-driven strategy and positioning. Jim often presents at UPCEA’s regional and national conferences, sharing vital information with attendees.

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