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Why High Schoolers are Skipping going to University and Pursuing Other Career Opportunities

It’s no secret that the economy in the United States is in bad shape due to the long term effects of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic as well as an ever-changing economy. It was reported towards the end of 2023 that many jobs and careers would stop requiring Bachelor’s degrees as requirements for many positions, and Zoomers (also referred to as Gen Z) couldn't be happier about this. With the rising costs of tuition, the inability for various universities to implement a proper career placement upon successful internships and graduation, and various opportunities arising via the Internet, such as becoming a social media influencer, developing a successful smartphone app upon completion of cheap online courses, and doing delivery and rideshare services for multi-million dollar companies like DoorDash, Uber, and Amazon Flex. The time has come where you no longer need to go into life-long debt in order to obtain what many might’ve once considered life-long security for financial freedom, and employers know this, hence they’re offering more of an incentive to work by removing what many would view as rigid requirements.


The average cost of in-state tuition for room and board at a public, 4-year university is $27,940 when you take into consideration books, supplies, transportation, and various living expenses one might forget about before making the conscious choice to go to university. For out-of-state expenses, the total for one academic year is a whopping $57,570, which isn’t convincing to the average 18-year-old high school senior who has to make a choice regarding their future. On the flip side, the annual cost of trade school ranges around $17,600, which is the net cost that students pay after grants, scholarships, or even in-district discounts. As of 2021, graduates who obtained a median average salary of $44,400 were just over $6,100 more than workers with only a high-school diploma. After about 3 years, trade school goers are essentially rewarded with their added skillset paying for itself if one does the math correctly. Motorcycle mechanic, veterinary technician, and truck driver trade schools cost around $5,000-$13,000 to attend, while obtaining a Master’s of Business Administration can total just over $60,000, and this is after the first four years of attending university for a Bachelor.


A huge aspect of college is networking, as students have various opportunities to intern, gain hands-on experience, and develop the necessary skills to perform while at a four-year university; otherwise, a university certificate has little to no value in the current ultra-competitive labor market. Various companies are taking a more skills-based approach when it comes to hiring, according to job search sites, including Indeed and ZipRecruiter, according to cbsnews.com. In 2023, the number of jobs that require a Bachelor’s degree dropped from 14.5% to 18% on ZipRecruiter, in only a year. A whopping 72% of firms reported prioritizing candidates’ skills and experience over their degrees, certificates, and diplomas in which one possesses.


“Part of this is employers realizing they can possibly do a better job looking for skills or competencies that are needed to do the job, and this can be accomplished by not letting a degree get in the way of this," Parisa Fatechi-Weeks, senior director of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) for Indeed reported to CBS Money Watch in December. cbsnews.com


Various firms in the healthcare industry dropped requirements, as they are devoted to training individuals to become pharmacists, health home aides, and many more. However, experts do not recommend skipping college altogether and do not anticipate fewer young people to pursue four-year degrees, but they acknowledge the amount of time it can take for these degrees to pay off in the workplace. 


“Individuals should not look to obtain a four-year degree as a ticket to their immediate first job, as it is meant to make one mobile beyond their first job,” says Diane Gayeski, a former dean and professor of strategic communication at Ithaca College and advisor at Intelligent.com, a college resource site. “When it comes time to move on from the entry-level job into a leadership role, what employers will look at are broader experiences and the ability to be creative from experience.” 


College is meant to be a stepping stone, according to experts, not a guarantee of work security and financial stability. It can be understood why this is not a convincing hard-sell approach to younger people who want to make the most they can in a crashing economy. 2-year school is more rewarding short-term, while 4-year school is less cost efficient but can still be beneficial when it comes to specializing in specific careers, such as becoming a teacher, scientist or healthcare specialist.

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