iGen Perspective: Is higher education a dying industry?

iGen. Gen Tech. Gen Wii. Net Gen. Post-Millennials and Zoomers… all titles used to describe my generation.  See a common theme here?  Yep, TECH. 

Technology has transformed our way of life. What makes this significant for the iGeneration is – this is all we’ve ever known. We can’t imagine a world without the internet, iPhones, Snapchat, Tick Tock, and DoorDash. And, if we do, it is excruciatingly painful! Technology opens doors to create and make the unimaginable tangible and by default, this is how the iGen mindset is wired. Recognizing this is the foundation of our thinking, we Think BIG and we Think DIFFERENT, naturally. 

As a senior at Skyline High school, I navigated the college application process for months, toiling with the question, ‘Is higher education a dying industry?’  From an iGen perspective, the answer is, YES, if colleges and universities don’t change the way they play the education game. The question they need to be asking themselves is, “How can we turn ‘Education as Usual’ into ‘Education that is Useful’ and make it appeal to iGenners like me?  

What turns us off about ‘Education as Usual’ is we see traditional forms of education as being old, dated, inefficient, and irrelevant. We are absolutely interested in learning, but the content and delivery needs to be different, current, relevant, and expedient. My generation already thinks in a ‘keepin it real’ slash ‘real world’ mindset, so the more practical and real you can make our learning experience, the more likely we will be drawn to investing in it. 

I hear many adults say, ‘technology is responsible for the dumbing down of America,’ but, I would argue that there are iGenners, like me, who are taking advantage of advancements in technology and using them for good. As with any new thing like tech, there are always going to be people who will ‘abuse’ it and those who will ‘use’ it for good. So the real question is, which one are you going to be? An abuser? Or, a user, with a purpose? 

My generation is also more likely to embrace differences. We look different, think different, talk different, and hit different.  I am a young woman of mixed race, my father is Black and my mother is Native Hawaiian, Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, Irish. I check all the boxes. I was born in Utah, originally from Hawai’i, and grew up on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. I was raised by a single mother who made tremendous sacrifices to ensure I always had access to the best education. Since we, oftentimes, struggled to make ends meet, I learned to see the value in ‘the struggle’ and as a result, I have become, what my mom describes as, a fiscal conservative.  Having grown up being exposed to a wealth of social, cultural, racial, regional, religious, and political diversity, being different is who I am. 

After much thought and consideration, I decided to commit to UCLA.  The Daily Bruin reports, “Nearly 168,000 freshmen and transfer students applied to UCLA for fall 2021 admission, a 24.6% increase compared to last year.” More students applied to UCLA than any other college in the country. I had no idea how competitive UCLA was going to be.  I was drawn to the warm weather, beach, and party school.  Recognizing UCLA is one of the top research and academic institutions in the world, I also believe college students can be smart and cool and UCLA seems like a place where I can be both.  And, to anyone who thinks I got in simply because I’m a young Black female. Two words: Prop 209. Google it. 

In the end, I believe my generation has the power to transform higher education from a dying industry into a thriving one. And, iGenners like me will make the difference. We will take the ‘Education that is Useful’ philosophy and turn it into a ‘Business that is Useful’ mindset – throw in our commitment to social justice and there you go – economic recovery.  This is how the iGen will transform the way we do business and rebuild our economy.  It starts by transforming higher education. Think different. Learn different. Lead different. 

Kaleila Dae Relle Ka’iulani Alaka’i Wren 

Senior, Skyline High School, IB Graduate, Varsity Cheerleader 

Freshman, UCLA, Fall 2021, Business/Economics Major