Gen Z’s Student Experience

August 04, 2022

Life On Campus

Generation Z (Gen Z) students, born between 1995-2012, dominate the student population at colleges and universities. 

This generation is technologically advanced, passionate about social changes, and independent. They expect critical changes in their government and in their society.

Gen Z students also hold high expectations for their higher ed institutions as well.

However, as enrollment rates have declined over 4% in the last year and just over 1.3 million students have not returned to postsecondary education since the spring of 2020, it’s clear there is a disconnect between students and a student experience that matches their expectations.

Equal opportunities and support, cutting-edge technology, flexibility and convenience sit at the top of the list of general expectations Gen Z students hold for campus life. 

Let’s take a closer look at more applicable descriptions of Gen Z’s expectations on campus:

Gen Z Students Expect a Tech-Infused Campus

Gen Z grew up in a fast, technologically-advanced era. They fondly remember growing up playing video games on Nintendo Wiis, listening to music on iPods or MP3 players, exploring the Internet, taking part in social media trends, and using other technological devices to keep themselves entertained. 

What began as a fun childlike adventure for Gen Z is now a way of living.

As technology continues to improve, Gen Z is taking advantage of using it in their everyday lives. This includes:

  • Mobile ordering to get their favorite foods quickly, easily, and safely

  • Using tap-to-pay features for a speedy and secure checkout

  • Relying on Buy Now, Pay Later services to spread payments out over time for big-ticket items

  • Tapping their mobile devices to gain access to buildings, concerts, and events 

Each of these tools provides the convenience and flexibility Gen Z demands.

Now that Gen Z makes up the largest portion of the student population, tech on campus is essential. They expect tools that allow for meal plan tracking, tuition and fee payment, entry to buildings and events, use of campus cash, and marking class attendance all in one place. 

They also expect to learn at their own pace with the help of online learning and options that cater to students' learning preferences.

Infusing technology into every corner of your campus can help you meet these expectations.

Gen Z Students Expect Mental Health Resources

Taking care of your mental health is a serious practice, and Gen Z students are advocating for more mental health resources for their communities and campuses. 

A large reason for this push is because it is affecting their population the most. A recent study shows that from 2013-2021, depression gradually increased by 135%, and anxiety increased by 110% in college students. 

As the numbers continue to rise, Gen Z students are expecting their universities to deliver quality resources to support mental health issues on campus. 

This is where institutions must focus on ways to assist with their student's mental health. This can be done by: 

  • Increasing mental health resources on campus

  • Providing easy access to support hotlines 

  • Creating awareness campaigns and an environment that is eager to support students, faculty, and staff who are struggling

It’s an expectation that’s been rightfully set by Gen Z and leaning in to meet this expectation is essential.

Gen Z Students Expect More Dining Options

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional way of dining was flipped on its head

Mobile ordering stormed onto the scene allowing people to order and pick up their meals in a faster and more safe way. Food delivery services also saw sharp spikes in demand and are still reaping the benefits today. 

Both new dining trends opened the door for universities to implement similar solutions on campus as Gen Z became the age group primarily using these resources. 

New solutions allow administrations to implement mobile ordering, third-party partnerships, meal plan management, community partnerships, and more on campus. 

And while students will enjoy increased options and easy-to-get meals, institutions will also benefit from including more dining options because it will: 

  • Reinforce community engagement

  • Keep students on campus

  • Improve campus culture 

  • Boost university profits

Take advantage of the benefits that come with meeting the dining option expectations now, while Gen Z students still value improvements to this aspect of campus life. 

Gen Z Students Expect Flexible Payment Options

Tools like AfterPay and Affirm challenged the way consumers pay for big-ticket items by breaking large payments into smaller, easier to manage, portions. 

This concept is helpful for spreading the costs of furnishing an apartment or buying a new wardrobe, but where it’s seeing a greater push is for helping students avoid debt. 

Student debt is a growing concern for Gen Z. In 2020, 13% of student loan debts in the U.S. were held by Gen Z while only 11% were held by millennials, and 5% by Gen X. 

As tuition costs continue to rise, Gen Z students are turning to payment plan options instead of loans to help them avoid debt.

The concept is simple. Break the large tuition payment into smaller, more manageable payments over a predetermined span of time. 

Like implementing dining options, providing flexible payment options is beneficial for students and administrators. 

For students, it’s a way to avoid or lower loan debt. For administrators, it’s a way to show students you are willing to work with them and ease the burden of administrative staff. 

Gen Z’s Expect an Improved Student Experience

Gen Z students are expecting more out of their campuses, but thankfully, each expectation presents an opportunity for administrators to adapt and provide students with what they need and desire. 

In many cases, meeting their expectations also leads to benefits for the institution as well. 

Now is the time to take action to improve the Gen Z student experience. 

Discover solutions at