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Generation Z & College

The Next Generation Fandom Survey is about more than sports fandom. Our guiding premise is that fandom is a fundamental human trait. Fandom is about passion for cultural entities ranging from sports to brands. In addition, fandom is about wanting to be connected to or aspiring to be a member of some group.

A core aspect of modern American culture that is seldom thought of in terms of fandom is university education. Universities and colleges are usually discussed in terms of prestige or how they increase earning potential. However, college also triggers many of the common elements of fandom. College is a life-long connection to a group. The specific college attended is often an essential part of self-identity, with students and alumni proudly wearing their school’s colors and logos. Alumni root for their college to do well in public forums ranging from academic rankings to sports.

This past fall, there was a flurry of articles discussing the lack of participation of Generation Z males in higher education. The under-representation of young men on college campuses was promptly analyzed through every commentator’s preferred political lens. Either feminists have transformed campuses into anti-male institutions, or the influences of toxic masculinity have made young men into anti-intellectual slackers.

The Next Fandom Survey includes questions about fandom for college and preferences for different types of schools (e.g., STEM vs. Big Time Sports). The figure below shows the average preference (fandom) for college for different generations by gender. The scores are for a 7 point scale where 7 indicates extreme fandom.

The vital insight is obvious. There is significantly less enthusiasm for college for Generation Z males relative to females. Young women are much more interested in joining the ranks of college students and alumni.

This attitudinal data is striking in its similarity to the observed behavioral data (choice to attend). We present a thorough investigation into passion for college in the report linked below. In particular, we delve into underlying psychological traits that may be driving this disinterest in being part of the college ranks.

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