Lifestyle & Belief

Latest college trend: wanting to be wealthy


Students listen to then national anthem prior to US President Barack Obama's delivering of the commencement address on May 21, 2012 at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri.


Mandel Ngan

Forget Occupying. Today’s college kids just want to be wealthy.

A new survey of freshman at Cornell University shows that 86 percent of them feel that being “financially well-off” is important or essential in life. That’s a jump of more than 13 percent from last year.

Marin Clarkberg, director of Cornell's Institutional Research and Planning, said that the results were similar across 17 other universities that conducted a similar survey. She said all reported that the numbers for “financially well off” were up 10 percent or more from last year. 

Rising student debt and high unemployment may be causing part of the shift toward financial reward. Courtney Loo, a Cornell freshman, told the Cornell Daily Sun that “I think so many people in my class ... value being financially well-off because they are looking to live a comfortable life without having to worry about debt.”

She added that, during the crisis, “They saw how difficult it was for their parents to deal with financial issues.”

We don’t know, of course, whether the students have a more or less negative view of the wealthy given the current class wars. Just because they want more wealth for themselves doesn’t mean they want to be like the wealthy.

Still, the survey shows that rather than shunning material comforts and financial gain, today’s students are embracing it. Financial services remains the most popular post-graduate job category for Harvard grads, even though finance jobs are more scarce.

Some might say that today's top students are simply becoming more practical than idealistic. But with college costing more than $60,000 a year, paying down student debt is starting to seem more like an impossible ideal.

-By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow Robert Frank on Twitter: @robtfrank 

© 2012

More from our partner, CNBC:

CNBC: Kapur: Yes, Amazon Taxes May Actually Create Thousands of Jobs

CNBC: Here's Why Google Could Disappear in Five Years: Pro

CNBC: Saving Tips for the Squeezed Middle Class

CNBC: Take CNBC's Private Equity Quiz

CNBC: Fastest Road in America: 85 MPH and We May Be Going Even Faster