As student affairs professionals we have to learn to plan for five years in the future. We have to understand technology just like our students do. We have to anticipate what students will want so that we don’t get too behind offering it. We have to understand trends, use demographic research, and professional development opportunities to help create our plan. Student Affairs departments are preparing for students with more mental health needs or English language needs. Departments in the Northeast know that there will be a decline in the traditional student population over the next several years. We know because we have to know.
I recently witnessed what happens when a department doesn’t know what we know. The department recently received their enrollment numbers; they are far below average and there is no single reason why. I can imagine meetings being similar to watching ants after the hill has been crushed. Lots of running around madly trying to figure out how to rebuild without money or resources to rebuild.
Recently there was a conversation on #sachat about working with faculty, because they are our allies. I don’t think we would exist on campus without faculty, students are there for a major and we are there to guide them to success. But we can’t necessarily teach the engineering, English, or chemistry courses needed for the degree, we need faculty for that. So, my question is: are we helping our faculty counterparts prepare for the change in demographics?
Many of the departments where I work offer four-year programs, meaning students who attend a community college are going to spend at least three years at in the program, bringing the possible total up to five years. The department I work with has two years of sequential courses and then two years of electives to fulfill the program. They don’t offer a part-time option or a lot of evening classes, the target audience, historically, has been 18 year old, full-time students. Without academic programs, we as Student Affairs professionals can’t exist. Can we help programs like these become more flexible and ready for the future? Do we have the tools to show them how to build a five-year plan while still providing a top-notch education? Has your department helped the academic side of your college?