Letter to the Editor: Generation Z ignores 180 years of tradition

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The DePauw’s “Generation Z requires shift in DePauw admissions” article discussed the potential changes DePauw University is considering after getting feedback from a Render Experiences consulting team. I am very concerned about the implications of these recruitment strategies and believe that they will jeopardize DePauw’s wellbeing in the long-term.

While I am skeptical about Render’s assumptions about Generation Z and doubt that they can provide compelling evidence that proves this demographic is frugal, resume/outcome focused and more concerned with their safety and wellbeing than millennials, let’s assume that Generation Z is defined by these characteristics.

I do not believe that DePauw’s tradition and values are compatible with Generation Z, and trying to cater to students who do not want to be here is not the right approach.

DePauw is not cheap. The total sticker price exceeds $60,000, and it will be impossible to attract “frugal” students unless tuition can be lowered significantly. This would require transformational changes that would deplete DePauw’s endowment, increase class sizes, and lower the quality of education. Furthermore, if DePauw focuses on recruiting students who embody the “ordinary” textbook definition of Generation Z, they will exclude extraordinary students.

If Generation Z is indeed outcome focused, then this demographic will want to get their degree, get out and get a job. They will not be invested in DePauw as an institution, and they will not be financially involved after they graduate. One of DePauw’s greatest strengths is its endowment, and the generosity of alumni has allowed the school to flourish. Catering to Generation Z will create a cohort of uninvolved graduates who are too “outcome focused” to care about giving back to higher education.

Finally, DePauw is able to attract and develop successful people through their focus on written and oral communication, among other so-called soft skills. DePauw cannot compete with big-name schools that look good on a resume, or be able to rival these schools. At the end of the day, companies care more about who applicants are as people and make the final cuts in the interview process. DePauw graduates excel in interviews, and the connections that DePauw’s alumni base provides gives students the opportunity to get to the interview stage and secure a job.

Creating an ambiguous category like “Generation Z” makes generalizations, and though these assumptions may hold true for the majority of the population, they are not universal. Not every member of Generation Z will identify strongly with this group, and DePauw should focus on recruiting 700 students that are the exception instead of adopting an admissions strategy that is more suited to a state school.

The accomplishments and involvement of alumni is indicative that DePauw is doing something right, but recent administrative initiatives are threatening institutions that are central to DePauw. Ignoring 180 years of tradition will fundamentally change DePauw, and not for the better.

Trying to recruit students who do not fit in at DePauw is a waste of time and money, and the administration should seriously consider the implications of changing admissions tactics.