The Millennials are Coming ... The Millennials are Coming!

By Jim Fong posted 11-02-2014 11:45 AM

Well, the UPCEA regionals are over, but far from it as many issues will continue to be discussed.  It was so exciting to see the great keynotes and excellent content presented at the meetings.  The networking was great and it feels like the UPCEA ball keeps rising to the challenges of online and continuing education.  I presented "A Deeper Dive into Demographics ..." at the Central and New England meetings and had a few epiphanies along the way regarding the millennials and boomers.  In short, I've summarized the following about each group:

1.  Millennials (74 million strong and about 18 to 34 years of age)

- They have on average about 249 Facebook friends but are more active on other social media platforms.  They are a creative group and lean on social media for solutions.  They also have a greater belief in diversity.
- They are less brand loyal.  There needs to be a purpose and value for brand loyalty.
- 16% are unemployed and 28% are underemployed, but still represent around 15% of the U.S. workforce
- Their parents told them college would be the ticket to success.  Of course, why should they not believe their parents ... their parents have been giving them rewards all along the way and cheering them from the sidelines all their lives.  
- They have about $27,000 of debt.
- They don't have the same belief in a degree as the boomers do and may value certificates and badges differently.

2.  Boomers (80 million+ strong, about 50-64 years of age)

- They grew up "keeping up with the Joneses."  They grew up often times not seeking diversity but homogeneity, as can be illustrated with their neighborhoods looking a lot like.
- Brand loyal and brand lazy.  Despite poor performance, boomers stay with their brands.
- They hold much of the power in our economy and believe the degree is the gold standard for workforce readiness on many jobs.
- They are the "tipping point" generation, believing that that American dream is always in reach ... you just have to work hard at it.
- They grew up in a borrow now and pay later generation.

So, why the lists of differences?  As boomers move out of the power position in our society and as millennials move into positions of authority (boards, government, company leadership, etc.), our standards for education may shift.  While degree completion will be a standard for another decade, I believe that the certificate or badge will gain traction.  Recall that 44% of millennials are underemployed or unemployed.  They may not believe the degree has the cache that boomers believe.  They'll want greater connections to outcomes and the ability to solve problems.  They'll also want to be recognized along the way with their badges and certificates. 

As we move into the next decade, millennials will also be more critical.  Recall that they are NOT brand loyal.  My guess is that, once our institutions fail them (or satisfy them), they will reverse the tables on us and give us our badges (or ratings).  They're already starting to do so.  This generation likes to rate their experiences and a recent search on colleges and universities on Yelp proves this.  

The millennials will be a force to be reckoned with.  They are pent up, a bit frustrated, digitally-powerful, have high brand standards and are starting to gain power in our economy and with educational decisions.  We need to make sure we're planning for their future.  Join us in Atlanta for the UPCEA Marketing and Enrollment Management Seminar November 5-7, 2014 to continue the discussion with me.