Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date, with different values and expectations for the world around them. These differences between them and previous generations are pushing universities to rethink their school offerings, uprooting the college landscape as we know it.

To match the needs of Gen Z students and provide the experiences they seek, it is time to rethink your campus’ structure to ensure you are offering the best college amenities to recruit, retain, and engage with this new generation.

Who is the Gen Z student?

Gen Z, also known as “Zoomers,” is a generation who have never known a time without a smartphone. Born between 1995 and 2012, Gen Z comprises 73.6 million people and makes up most of today’s college-bound students. As a generation who frequently engages on platforms like Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, and who have lived through some of the most significant events of our time, they tend to view the world and college radically different than any generation before them.

The most diverse generation yet

Gen Z is the most diverse generation, made up of 52% non-Hispanic white, 14% black, 6% Asian, and 5% who are a different race or a mix of two or more races. This generation demands diversity and inclusion when it comes to race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual identity. They vote with their feet (social marches), their thumbs (taking to social media and other digital mediums), and with their wallets (boycotting brands).

1. Financial insecurity amongst Gen Zers

According to a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education, feelings of financial insecurity overwhelm Gen Zers. One in four students reported feeling “always stressed” about money with concern about paying for college as a key stressor. 

The implications for universities are clear: demonstrate the positive return on investment from a college degree. How can universities do this?

  • Cite specific graduate outcome data so that prospective students have realistic expectations about the typical hiring process for recent graduates and what their career growth trajectory might look like. 
  • Showcase unique degrees and experiences on campus that are exclusively available to students.
  • Don’t be afraid to embrace new pricing models that include different tuition for hybrid classes. It’s also important to include price transparency to show students the true price of their education, including books, supplies, and housing.

2. Priority changes to services as community amenities

Rock climbing walls and high-tech fitness centers on campus used to work when recruiting Millennial students. However, for Gen Z, this isn't the case. A typical Gen Z college student is looking for a campus facility with services that meet their different demands. Trends in college student housing have revealed that flexibility and collaboration in common areas are key. Gen Z students are looking for dorm resident lounges, flexible learning spaces, and even outdoor study spaces that are safer and more conducive to creating a stronger connection with nature. An example of this new approach to campus can be seen at the North Carolina School of Math. Academic lecture halls and laboratory spaces have been done away with. Instead, they introduced the Academic Commons, a student village that combines study halls, science and digital labs, virtual learning areas, and a maker space.

At Lehigh University, newly finished student housing includes dorm resident lounges and a coffee bar. In addition, for students' convenience, the school recently implemented smart parcel lockers for their college apartments to provide safe and secure deliveries for students. "Creating a safe environment for students – especially in light of COVID-19 – and providing overall exceptional customer service is our priority, and we're always seeking new innovations to enhance the student experience," says Mark Ironside, Assistant Vice President of Business Services at Lehigh University of the decision to invest.

3. Technology integrated with academia

At the start of COVID, almost 50% of colleges had no online programs at all! Today, that is a vastly different story, with a virtual learning community emerging on nearly every college campus.

Because Gen Z has grown up surrounded by technology, they tend to view tech differently than any other generation. Gen Z is constantly searching for innovation, prospective students seek learning environments that integrate technology along with their studies. Southern New Hampshire University, for instance, earns high marks for teaching architecture through the lens of a 3D holographic model. And Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has created a revolutionary and immersive way to teach Mandarin. Students learn this Chinese dialect within a virtual, computer-generated street scene while conversing with avatars. As one successful student explains: “I thought it would be cheesy. It’s definitely more engaging because you’re actively involved with what’s going on”.

Most importantly, Gen Z values practical applications of their learning. Given their need for a positive return on investment in their education, they are looking for colleges that arm them with practical skills for life.

4. How to elevate the student experience

Tom Ellett holds a rare job in higher education: Chief Experience Officer at Quinnipiac University. One of his key learnings about college life this past year from students was the frustration in dealing with different offices for administrative issues such as paying their bills, receiving financial aid, changing meal plans, and registering for classes. A Rand Corporation study of four community college systems found a 3% average increase in student retention by moving to an integrated model, with better outcomes for adult learners over the age of 25, and students of color. As of early 2021, these services are under one roof at Quinnipiac.

Quadient and you

Gen Z is redefining what the future of college campuses will look like. Administrators must understand the top priorities of this generation and tweak their campus amenities to serve them. Finding ideas to make college campuses better is crucial now more than ever.

Contact us today to learn how parcel lockers elevate your student experience while providing your campus with a safe and modern delivery and return solution for more than just mail and parcels.

Alexandrea Purvis

Alexandrea Purvis

Content Marketing Specialist- Parcel Locker Solutions

Alexandrea Purvis is the Content Marketing Specialist for Parcel Locker Solutions at Quadient, responsible for the development and execution of Quadient's global content strategy for Parcel Locker Solutions. Alexandrea has more than 5 years of experience in the technology industry and has created and implemented key marketing strategies that are engaging and increase brand awareness around parcel lockers. Alexandrea holds a B.A. from the University of Central Florida and an M.A. from Lille 1 University of Science and Technology. 

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