During this time of sunny conference selfies, TIME recently shared a forecast of “the perfect storm” about to hit higher education, citing the rising cost of higher education. In student affairs, we are tasked with the responsibility of working with the best interest of our students in mind and helping them achieve success as they define it. To help our students succeed, we look toward their future beyond graduation day. This includes doing whatever is in our power to reduce the debt they’ll carry into the next chapter (or chapters) of their lives.
When the topic of professional development comes up, cost is appropriately a factor. All too often I’ve heard people discuss their views on how much “the department” should pay towards professional development. I’d encourage each of us to replace “the department” with “our students” and see if we’re still comfortable with our words.
Below is an exercise providing one frame to look at the cost our professional development may put on our students.
Figure out the total dollar amount a professional development experience will cost each student you serve.
This may be a little time consuming and take some digging, but it’s an exercise worth doing at least once. Try not to get hung up on little details.
- Determine the total cost of the experience. If you’re looking at a conference, include hotel, travel, meals, registration, and any other affiliated costs.
- Determine the number of students you regularly serve. Who are the students most likely to benefit from this experience? For example, if you work in residence life, use the number of students under your direct supervision instead of the larger number of students within your expanded duty area.
- Determine the cost per student.
If this experience required the approval of your students for funding, would they choose to fund it?
Imagine you had to present a proposal to the students funding your professional development. Would you be prepared to answer the following questions?
- How are we (the students) going to benefit from your experience?
- Is there a more affordable way to get the same experience?
What additional impacts will this experience cost your students?
Regardless of the dollar sign associated with your experience, time is another large consideration.
- If you attend a conference for a week, what services are disrupted?
- Your institution may cover the cost of taking credited courses, but how does timing impact your availability?
- A great (free) experience is serving on a board for a professional association. What are ways you can serve while giving your students your first and best attention?
Create a professional development plan based on your goals instead of your maximum budget. If you’re choosing your experiences based on the friends you’ll have the opportunity to reunite with or the weather (while tempting at the moment), you’re doing a disservice to your students and colleagues. Determine your needs and let those needs guide the experiences you seek out. Professional development is important and necessary for us to serve our students best in changing times. And as the times change, so must the methods we use to learn from each other.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Stacy Oliver-Sikorski on Professional Development