The Meaning of (Student) Life – Huffington Post

Reflecting on the highly competitive job market of 2013, I feel that higher education related discussion has been very focused on employment-readiness, salaries, and the job prospects of graduates. While I am by no means downplaying the importance of these categories, I sometimes wonder if the intense focus on the collegiate ROI will ultimately change and redefine the stereotypical “student life” experience.

Student life is synonymous with student engagement and in a university learning takes place both inside and outside the classroom.  The Huffington Post’s The Meaning of (Student) Life asks this difficult question – As colleges and universities scramble to cut costs and keep down tuition, what does this mean for support of student life services?

One thing that is certain is the fact that college students come to campus having learned differently than the generation of administrators, trustees, and faculty, as Brian Mitchell points out to the Huffington Post. Today’s students are impacted by technology, frequently working in group settings, and influenced by experiences that exist far beyond the walls of a lecture hall. The college education experience is shaped by learning that occurs inside and outside the classroom, which is what makes student life and extracurricular focused programming so crucial.

Mitchell’s call to action for university administrators is as follows:1 – Student life staff must be better respected for the critical role they play in the life of the college. Student life staff often feels under-appreciated among senior administrators and faculty.
2 – Student life staff must be more effective in defining residential life. There is a need to correct the public perception that plush luxury dorms and organic dining options are the sole factor for rising tuition prices. Student life staff must connect their services to tangible and valued outcomes, such as graduation rates or post-grad employment.
3 – College leadership must understand student life as a teachable moment for the college community and must rethink how they approach and fund student life.

Most of all – I agree whole hardheartedly with Mitchell’s conclusion – that American higher education institutions will not achieve their desired levels of graduation rates and ultimately post-graduation success without recognizing and supporting the student life services that help students get there.

What do you think about making sure student life services retain adequate funding in a culture of increased budget cutting?What about the role of technology?

I think we have some room for serious growth and innovation!

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4 thoughts on “The Meaning of (Student) Life – Huffington Post

  1. Hmmm good questions. Maybe they can develop a google calendar that student groups can use to post events? And google is free! They would need someone to monitor it though, but it could be a helpful, low cost resource.

    • I totally agree! Google is such a great resource – especially for a free one! I think it would be especially easy since many universities use a Google interface for their email.

  2. I do think the ability to quickly access technological solutions facilitates a better college experience. In 2000, I remember taking a walking tour of a college in Connecticut, with a friend who was thinking of transferring. During our tour, we came across the library tower that had been wrapped in industrial strength plastic. Ever so often you would hear a strange sound. Later we were told that the student engineers for the new library building had forgotten to calculate for the weight of the books, and they had to wrap the building so that bricks that randomly popped out would not hit anyone. I told my friend that she might not want to join, and she told me as long as she had her Apple Clamshell laptop and they had stable wifi, she would be fine. At that point, I knew that the world had greatly changed.

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