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Success, Redefined

How nondegree pathways empower young people to chart their own courses to confidence, employability, and financial freedom

February 6, 2024

Today’s young adults want and need a diverse array of education options, including, but not limited to, two- and four-year degrees to help them connect learning with earning. Young people and employers alike are eager for effective, efficient, work-aligned pathways to employment that enable people not just to say, “I know a lot, and here’s the paper to prove it,” but instead, “Let me show you what I can do with what I know.”

Joel Vargas Vice President
Susan Acevedo-Moyer Director
Julie Lammers Senior Vice President, ASA
Sarah Beu Senior Research Analyst
Practices & Centers Topics

We surveyed over a thousand young adults who are not pursuing a four-year degree. Around half of our survey respondents have chosen to pursue nondegree, education-to-career pathways such as apprenticeship, certification, and licensure. The other half of our respondents have chosen not to pursue any postsecondary education. Our goal is to better understand the motivations, circumstances, influencers, priorities, and satisfaction level of today’s “non-college youth” to ensure that emerging generations of students have access to accurate information about the many viable pathways that exist and how they might pursue them.

Success Redefined: How Gen Z Is Redefining Success Through Nondegree Paths

Join us for an illuminating dialogue as we explore groundbreaking research findings, freshly unveiled from American Student Assistance and Jobs for the Future, that advocate for education to career pathways among young adults and learners. The Success, Redefined survey examines pathway youth’s perspectives on education and career plans.


What did we learn?

  • The young people we surveyed who have pursued nondegree pathways feel confident in themselves, their plans, and their future. They largely feel they are workforce ready. Furthermore, they report higher levels of employment than our non-pathway respondents. Nearly all the young adults we surveyed are satisfied with their chosen pathway.
  • When it comes to considering postsecondary options, today’s young people prioritize the ability to start earning quickly, not incur excessive costs, have the ability to work in their field of interest, and adhere to a flexible schedule. All of these attributes hold true of nondegree pathways.
  • An information void exists around nondegree pathways that hinder young people who might otherwise be interested from accessing them. Schools are not conveying information about nondegree pathways to the same extent as they are about four-year degree pathways.
  • Despite the information void, the level of interest in learning more about nondegree pathways is strong: some two in three non-pathway respondents said they would have considered a nondegree pathway if they had known more about it.

To learn more about our findings, we invite you to read the full report.