Millennial students value money more than Baby Boomers

Millennial students are more motivated by earning a higher income than their predecessors, finds a new study published in The Journal of Social Psychology.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, and Kristin Donnelly, a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, pulled Freshman Survey responses between 1971 and 2014.

The researchers analyzed whether students valued reasons to enroll in college, like "to be able to make more money," and "to learn more about things that interest me," Jonathan Blumberg reports for CNBC.

After dividing the eight million student respondents into Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomers, Twenge and Donnelly found two distinct generational differences:

  • 71% of millennials listed making more money as a reason to pursue a degree, whereas only 55% of Boomers agreed; and
  • Millennial students value higher education seven percentage points less than Boomers.

Related: 68% of graduating seniors worry about "earning enough money"

Millennials seem to be more motivated by money than learning for the sake of learning, Blumberg notes. But the shift in educational priorities may reflect the difference in college costs between generations, he adds.

Millennial students have practical reasons for focusing on salary, Blumberg argues. He points out that today's students and families have more concerns about the cost of college, student loan debt, and a challenging job market.

However, while a focus on earning potential may be practical, college students shouldn't ignore the inherent value of learning for its own sake, Blumberg contends. And according to billionaire Warren Buffet, a commitment to learning is critical to professional and financial success, he adds (Blumberg, CNBC, 11/7).

Also See: What success means to your students, in their own words

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