When Millennials came to college, many came to the experience with the idea that you go to college to learn how to learn, how to exercise curiosity, what exploration looks like, and to become more independent. Then, thanks to the Great Recession, many of them returned home to live with their parents, unable to get a job or pay off high student loans.
Having watched this drama unfold, impacting older siblings in many cases, members of Generation Z are coming into college knowing exactly what they want to do and how their major will translate into a career. Generation Z is much more focused on the pragmatic experience of education over the exploratory pieces—and this drive is having a major impact on what Gen-Z expects from their student housing.
The cost-conscious generation
Generation Z is largely taking a practical approach to education. They will likely select a major based on the degree that will help them find success in a certain career. That practicality extends to campus housing.
This pragmatic generation is focused on working first, playing later, so a living environment that supports studying is essential. Schools are seeing success with mixing classrooms and residence halls. Living communities and themed housing all appeal to this generation.
Price has a huge impact on Generation Z’s decision-making. Research indicates that cost is the most important factor Generation Z consumers consider when deciding on a purchase, and no marketing can convince them to buy if the price is too high. In fact, a study from the Center for Generational Kinetics found that that 77% of Gen Z, aged 14 to 21, already earned their own spending money through freelance work, a part time job, or earned allowance—nearly the same percentage of earners as surveyed Millennials who are firmly planted in the workforce.
Finding a school that won’t leave them in debt is essential to Generation Z, and this won’t stop at housing. If you’re hoping to attract this group with amenities, you must be able to show clear value for what they’re paying.
An expectation for aesthetics
Despite their practical, cost-conscious attitude, Generation Z expects their physical space to be attractive. Generation Z grew up seeing as normal the strikingly futuristic Apple stores and the rich design of grocery stores like Whole Foods. They’ve grown up watching HGTV with their parents. As good design has become more accessible and more affordable, this generation has become accustomed to an attractive environment—and they know exactly what they want when it comes to housing style.
Students know when housing officers don’t consider the human experience of a space. Spaces lacking art, with poor lighting and a sterile feel will quickly turn away these students.
Balancing this cost-conscious attitude with student sophistication means that housing officers will have to be selective in which design elements they include. Generation Z isn’t looking for flashy add-ons; they want rich, human-focused design that strengthens their academic pursuits and community-building.
For more, download our Executive Guide: Is Your Student Housing Ready for Gen Z?