A new report in MarketWatch says young Americans are increasingly taking a very different approach to college and career preparation than the generation before them. Almost 90 percent of Gen Z members, and about 80 percent of young Millennials, have considered an education path that looks different from a four-year degree directly out of high school, according to a recent study by TD Ameritrade.

That includes taking a gap year, attending a community college or technical school rather than a four-year college, and taking on-line classes. In addition, more students are working part-time during college than two-years ago. More than a third of young Millennials and 48 percent of Gen Z’ers say a part-time job helps them pay for their education.

Ultimately, degrees aren’t the deciding factor for future jobs in many cases. Around half of young Americans say their degree was not important in getting their current job—and only one-third of their parents say their own degree is still relevant.

Both young Millenials and Gen Z’ers cite the increasing burden of student debt. MarketWatch points out that

the average borrower now leaves college with about $37,000 of loan debt, up more than $10,000 from 10 years ago. And outstanding student debt owed by all borrowers reached $1.5 trillion in 2018. That’s nearly three times as high as the collective $600 billion owed one decade prior.

Seventy-three percent of young Americans say they either chose or would choose a less expensive college to avoid debt. On average, Gen Z’ers report they have saved $4,734 for their post-secondary education, while Millenials have saved $9,258. One in three Gen Z’ers have saved less than $1,000 for college.

MarketWatch gives the example of a young woman named Malavika Vivek, who had four choices after her senior year in high school: Caltech, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, or becoming a solutions architect at a software company, Avasoft, Inc. She had attended a magnet engineering-focused high school in Edison, N.J., and worked part-time for Avasoft during high school. Vivek chose full-time employment at Avasoft instead of going on to a four-year college.

“I definitely thought about going to college….but in the end, I knew I would learn more discovering things on my own and working in the real world,” she told MarketWatch.

“Since starting full-time at Avasoft, Vivek has been ‘extraordinarily happy,’ she[said]. ‘I feel like I fit better in the ‘real world’ than I did in school.”…. Among her generation, she agrees that “there’s a growing attitude that college isn’t necessary or that it won’t make or break your future.”

Vivek predicts the number of young people going directly into the workforce from high school is only going to increase. “A lot of young people have asked me how I did it, or even just how to work during a gap year,” she said. “I think it’s all going to become more common.”

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