A new survey by Northeastern University found that a majority of Generation Z — those between the ages of 16 and 19 — is very self-motivated and seeks to craft its own future through higher education.

The survey of young people throughout the country is the fourth in a series by the university, which focuses on the future of higher education and its relationship to the global economy, according to a statement by Northeastern.

The university has conducted surveys on other generations and constituencies in the past, but this is the first time it has focused on the Gen Z population, said Joseph E. Aoun, president of the school.


“We were interested in the next generation of learners who will be in higher education,” Aoun said. “It is important to understand their needs and desires.  . . . And we want to know what the next generation wants out of their education.”

The survey was conducted in October through online and telephone polls of more than 1,000 teens between the ages of 16 and 19. The sample was tailored to represent different ethnic and socioeconomic groups across the United States, said Mike Armini, Northeastern’s senior vice president for external affairs.

The findings will be presented Tuesday at a summit in Washington, D.C., called, “Innovation Imperative: Meet Generation Z.”

Aoun said that although many respondents expressed a particular interest in entrepreneurship and the desire to work for themselves, the majority still believes that college is the path to future success and respondents desire to create their own programs of study.

The survey also found that while 67 percent of respondents said they are concerned with being able to afford college, 65 percent still said the benefits of a degree outweigh the costs.

“They [Generation Z] want to take charge of their own future.  . . . But they are certain about the importance of higher education,” Aoun said.


Another noteworthy aspect of the survey, Aoun said, was the modest enthusiasm respondents showed for technology in both their education and their personal lives.

A little more than half of those surveyed believe an online degree would be regarded in the same way that a traditional degree is in the work force. The study also revealed that only 15 percent of Gen Z respondents prefer to interact with friends on social media over gathering in-person.

“They want to be part of an ecosystem that is entrepreneurial and connected with reality,” Aoun said. “They also want to be involved with an experiential education.”

The full survey results can be found at northeastern.edu/innovationsurvey.

Trisha Thadani can be reached at trisha.thadani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TrishaThadani.