Non-Degree Pathways

New White Paper from ASA and JFF: Gen Z and Employers Perceptions of Non-Degree Pathways

Contributions by Jean Eddy

Options. It’s hard to imagine life without them. Yet, for generations we’ve told young people that college is the only path to success. In a recent study, 53% of today’s high schoolers said they are unlikely to attend college. So, if not a degree, how will they prepare for the workforce? 

ASA and JFF have partnered to build a coalition of support for widespread acceptance of quality education-to-career pathways and connect ideas, convene partners, and uplift solutions to help more young people achieve success in their chosen career fields, and help employers find qualified talent. Our newly published white paper, “Degrees of Risk: What Gen Z and Employers Think About Education-to-Career Pathways…and How Those Views are Changing” featuring research by Morning Consult, provides insight into perceptions of non-degree postsecondary pathways from both Gen-Z and employer perspectives.

Key findings revealed:

●    Skills-Based Hiring Gains Traction. Both employers and Gen Z rank skills as the most important consideration in choosing an education or training program: 74% of Gen Z want to earn skills that will lead to a good job and 81% of employers believe they should look at skills rather than degrees when hiring. More than two-thirds (68%) of employers say they want to hire from non-degree pathways.

●    Employers—and Young People—Still Default to Degrees. Even though most employers (72%) don’t see a degree as a reliable signal for assessing the skills of a candidate, the majority (52%) still hire from degree programs because they believe it is a less risky choice when hiring. Gen Z students are still defaulting to degree programs because many (37%) believe employers favor degrees. 

●    Fear of the Unknown. As a result, Gen Z fear there is too much risk associated with choosing the wrong non-degree postsecondary path (65%). And 80% of employers want more information on how non-degree paths differ. 

Read the full survey findings, plus recommendations on how to address these barriers at

P.S.: Stay tuned for a special report on the landscape of non-degree pathways and a survey of policymakers and politicians on their perceptions of non-degree pathways. Coming this Fall!