Job Security More Desirable than a Big Paycheck Reveals State of the Student Survey from DeVry University

U.S. students look beyond the economic downturn and point to education, job skills, Obama presidency as reasons to be optimistic about their future prospects

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. – April 30, 2009

In a sign of a major sea change in generational attitudes, adults ages 18-34 are moving away from their parents’ notion of “follow the money” and instead focusing their sights on steady and secure employment, according to the State of the Student Survey released today by DeVry University.

As the national unemployment rate continues to rise, seven in 10 respondents say the prospect of job security is the most important factor when choosing a career path. Those surveyed also rated a career based on interesting work (60 percent) as more important than a high salary (46 percent) or a clearly defined career path (35 percent).

“The State of the Student Survey gives us an interesting snapshot of what young adults are thinking today when they consider their career options,” said David J. Pauldine, president of DeVry University. “Above all, it shows that while this generation may be concerned about the world around them, they still believe they have the power to succeed professionally. They view higher education as the prerequisite for success.”

DeVry University’s State of the Student Survey, conducted by Gfk Roper Public Affairs & Media, examined respondents’ attitudes about higher education and plans to prepare for careers. The quantitative survey’s findings are based on a national online survey of 1,602 respondents, ages 18-34, conducted in mid-January 2009. Key findings include:

  • An Obama Presidency Buoys Hope: The majority (53 percent) of respondents – including three out of four (77 percent) African-Americans – believe that the Obama administration will strengthen their future prospects.
  • “The American Dream”: African-Americans (46 percent) and Hispanics (40 percent) are more likely than others (30 percent) to strongly agree that pursuit of a college education remains an essential part of achieving the “American Dream.”
  • Optimistic Outlook: Despite the recession, nearly half of respondents are “very optimistic” about their future, while eight in 10 feel at least “somewhat optimistic.” African-American respondents (59 percent) are much more likely to be “very optimistic” about their future compared to Hispanics (48 percent) and others (44 percent).
  • Hottest Career Opportunities: Respondents consider health care, information technology and computer security as the career areas offering the greatest opportunities for their future.
  • Career Influencers: When picking a career, adults who are successful in their career (45 percent) are more influential than the respondents’ parents (42 percent).
Education First

The economic downturn weighs heavily on how respondents will make decisions regarding their education and career pursuits. A majority stated that they are better served today by pursuing additional education or training (59 percent) rather than trying to find a job. That point of view is even stronger among African-Americans (67 percent). Even half of all respondents those not planning on pursuing future higher education see enrolling in school as the best course of action for the present time.

“We’ve seen that the more students focus on career training, the more success they have in maneuvering the recession,” said Pauldine. “They expect a return on their education, have a keen understanding of the marketplace and are well-prepared to find the best path to land jobs in high-growth industries.”

Among those currently not considering higher education, African-Americans (39 percent) are more likely to “strongly agree” that they will need to obtain additional education to prepare them for the job market than either Hispanics (29 percent) or other respondents (20 percent). Additionally, among all respondents, African-Americans are more likely to feel that universities prepare students with the skills required in the workplace (67 percent vs. 56 percent).

Affordability is Number One Factor in Selecting a College

Reflecting the economic times, six in 10 respondents believe that affordable tuition
(62 percent) and the availability of financial aid (60 percent) are the most important factors in selecting a college. For those respondents currently planning to pursue education, “practical courses that will lead to specific jobs” ranks as the third most important factor.

A majority of students and graduates admit that getting money to pay for college is a struggle. More than half say they will pay for college either themselves (53 percent) or in combination with their parents (17 percent). Hispanics (63 percent) are more likely than either African-Americans (53 percent) or others (51 percent) to say that they will pay for their own higher education. Overall, four in 10 say they will get loans while one-third will depend on scholarships.

Survey Methodology

The State of the Student Survey research was conducted by the GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media from Jan. 8 – 23, 2009. A total of 1,602 online questionnaires were completed among a nationally representative sample of young adult professionals or future professionals, ages 18 to 34, who reside in the United States, and the majority is currently pursuing or intends to pursue higher education. Of the respondents 300 self-identified as African-American and 301 self-identified as Hispanic.

Additional findings from the State of the Student Survey research are available at

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DeVry University strives to close society’s opportunity gap by preparing learners to thrive in careers shaped by continuous technological change. Founded in 1931, the university offers undergraduate and graduate programs onsite and online within six areas of study: Accounting, Business, Healthcare, Technology, Liberal Arts, and Media Arts & Technology. DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC, The university’s Keller Graduate School of Management is included in this accreditation. To learn more, visit

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