Chicago — Gen Z are rethinking their college and career paths in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Of those planning to enroll in an undergraduate program sometime in the next 12 months, about 39% said the court’s decision will affect their decision to attend college in a particular state, according to a BestColleges survey. About 43% of current undergraduates said the overturning of Roe vs. Wade has led them to consider whether they want to remain in the state they are attending college or transfer.
Lexi Mckee-Hemenway, a 21-year-old junior at the University of South Dakota who is president of USD Students for Reproductive Rights, told CNBC she’s become “a little more convinced” that she doesn’t want to stay in the U.S.
“There’s nothing more unnerving than seeing the fear in people’s eyes that they will either lose their job or their parents won’t love them anymore if they get an abortion,” she said. “But that’s the reality of how people think and feel about abortion here.”
South Dakota has always had restrictive abortion laws but in June, the procedure was almost entirely banned for the first time. McKee-Hemenway said she has a lot of mixed feelings about it, including rage, fear and disappointment.
“Most of all, though, I have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that this is the United States now … It’s a really scary time to live here,” she said.
Sam Goldstein, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said before Roe was overturned, she planned on remaining in Wisconsin. But after a near-total abortion ban went into effect in the state, those plans “went out the window,” she told CNBC.
“I’m a full-blown Wisconsin resident — I pay taxes, I vote here, I work here and I love my school,” she said. “But the minute Roe was overturned, I felt like I became a second-class citizen overnight … I cannot stay here.”
Mckee-Hemenway and Goldstein aren’t the only ways evaluating their plans as a result of Roe. Some college counselors are seeing a growing number of high school students factor state laws into their college decisions too.
Kathleen Moore, founder of Vox Cambridge College Consulting LLC, said one of her advisors, a soccer player, recently turned down a scholarship to attend a competitive South Carolina school. They were turned off by legislators’ attempts to pass more restrictive abortion laws in the state.
“He told me he wouldn’t consider going to school there on ethical grounds,” Moore told CNBC. “It’s not a decision students are taking lightly.”
Moore, who has been helping students navigate college admissions for nearly a decade, said prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, students and families rarely discussed what a school’s stance was on reproductive rights or abortion access in the state. Now “it’s dominating the conversation,” she said.
“They want to know what the law is in the states they are applying, what statements, if any, school leaders have made on reproductive rights, and how accessible reproductive health care is near campus,” she said. “These are all questions hardly anyone asked me before the overturn of Roe … It’s a huge change.”