ERIC Identifier: ED284519
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Author: Garland, Peter H.
Source: Association for the
Study of Higher Education.| ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education
A Critical Need for College Student Personnel Services. ERIC
Colleges and universities today are confronted with a variety of
changing conditions that demand attention; indeed, the formulation of
appropriate and effective responses to a changing world has become increasingly
important to the survival and viability of institutions. Developments in
society, in the higher education enterprise, and in the types and
characteristics of students are among those issues that must be addressed.
Increasingly, the efforts of student affairs organizations aimed at improving
quality of life, integrating new student groups, and attracting and retaining
students are becoming critical to institutions attempting to maintain
enrollments of qualified students, assure placement of graduates, develop
supportive alumni, and enhance academic involvement. Institutions' employment of
these strategies in response to changing conditions creates opportunities for
student affairs professionals to become leaders within the institution as they
offer important contributions to institutional vitality. The present time is a
significant one for the evolution of student affairs.
TO WHAT CHANGES MUST STUDENT AFFAIRS ORGANIZATIONS RESPOND?
Institutions and their student affairs organizations are confronted with
various changes in their contexts and clienteles. First of all, there are social
trends, such as a decreasing birth rate, growth of minority subpopulations, the
evolving information society, and the legacy of the baby boom. Second,
institutions and student affairs organizations must respond to developments in
the higher education enterprise, including new financial conditions, increased
planning, increased judicial intervention, and the growing application of
management techniques to higher education. Third, trends concerning students
must be addressed. Minority participation in education is growing, vocationalism
is increasing, and students' characteristics, values, and needs are changing.
IN WHAT WAYS CAN STUDENT AFFAIRS PROVIDE LEADERSHIP?
In response to changing conditions, institutions are (1) devoting efforts to
managing enrollments, using institutional marketing strategies to attract new
student clienteles and to retain current students; (2) increasing private
funding; (3) planning carefully and managing resources effectively; (4)
modifying programs and services to meet new needs; and (5) introducing
activities aimed at enhancing students' involvement in college life.
Current efforts support the increasing congruity between the goals of student
affairs and the goals of the institution. Efforts by student affairs
organizations aimed at individual and group development, student integration,
and student involvement: efforts which were once regarded as peripheral to the
academic mission of the institution, have gradually become more important in
efforts to enhance institutional vitality. Student affairs departments are
increasing the involvement of students in the academic experience, engaging in
preventive law, integrating new student groups, participating in the recruitment
and retention of students, and helping to develop supportive alumni. As student
affairs professionals achieve institutional support in their pursuit of the
traditional goals of student development, recognition of an expanded role for
student affairs is demanded.
WHAT NEW ROLE IS EMERGING?
The student affairs organization shares the orientations of the three major
campus groups--faculty, students, and administrators--and its position on the
borders of these groups may be its greatest strength. As Robert J. Fall
explains, "Our uniqueness as student personnel workers rests on our ability to
fashion significant educational environments, using the resources, values,
norms, and opportunities of the variety of constituencies on our campuses. To
the extent that we are successful in our innovative work, we will be respected,
not because of position, but as a result of the impacts we have on campus life.
Truly, student personnel workers have the opportunities to be central figures
for campus improvement in an era when resources must be perceived as newly
combined rather than as new" (1980, p. 12).
Another author maintains that "An alert, assertive response to these forces
(changing conditions) will make student affairs essential to institutional
effectiveness and therefore worthy of adequate support." Recognition of the
importance of student affairs to institutional vitality is growing, and student
affairs administrators must assume leadership in formulating and managing
institutional responses to changing conditions.
For an innovative student affairs professional who integrates student
development and institutional development, the term "integrator" is appropriate.
Serving as integrators of goals within institutions, student affairs
professionals will become more centrally involved in the direction of the
institution if they are able to build stronger bridges to the academic and
administrative communities. The challenges are many, but student affairs
professionals have the opportunity to lead efforts that will affect the entire
institution. And goals, priorities, and values will be better integrated as a
result of those efforts.
WHAT IMPLICATIONS DOES THIS NEW ROLE HAVE?
A new role for student affairs calls for changes in (1) the programs and
services offered by student affairs, (2) the professional skills required by
student affairs administrators, and (3) the content of the preparation and
development of professionals. The new role of student affairs will enhance
enrollment management, programs and services tailored to meet the needs of
nontraditional students, and activities designed to enhance career planning and
To assume a stronger position of leadership within the institution, student
affairs professionals must possess a wider repertoire of skills. In addition to
the traditional skills in human relations, student affairs professionals must
develop the organizational skills demanded by an expanded role within the
institution, including those skills directed at general management and planning,
resource management, information management, institutional politics, research
The development of new skills for student affairs professionals has clear
implications for the preparation and continuing professional education of
individuals in the profession. Currently, most preparation programs and
recommended curricula for the preparation of new professionals concentrate on
counseling and the human relations skills necessary for entry-level
practitioners and pay little attention to the administrative or organizational
skills demanded by the emerging role of integrator. A changing role for student
affairs demands different skills. Therefore, graduate programs at both the
master's and doctoral levels must embrace such topics as organizational behavior
and development, management and planning in higher education, and the
development of higher education. Further, continuing professional education must
work toward the enhancement of needed skills in an organized and comprehensive
A new role for student affairs also creates challenges for the application of
student development. If student development is to offer guidance to the
profession and become more useful to the student affairs integrator, then
several issues must be addressed: (1) the understanding and application of
student development within the field for the purpose of enhancing the
theoretical credibility of student affairs professionals; (2) the expansion of
student development theory to encompass increasing numbers of nontraditional
students; and (3) the integration of student and organizational development
To better serve as integrators within the institution, student affairs
-- assess the environment of the institution, -- comprehend institutional
issues and internal politics, -- develop professional credibility with faculty,
-- become experts on students' expectations, needs, and interests and be able to
articulate them to others in the institution, -- be able to explain the goals of
student affairs and student development to others in the institution in terms
that are meaningful to them, -- contribute to the quality of the academic
experience, -- contribute to the effective and efficient management of the
institution and be prepared to take leadership in the formulation of
institutional responses to changing conditions, -- develop appropriate skills.
Furthermore, institutions, if they are to take advantage of the real and
potential contributions of student affairs should:
-- recognize, enhance, and support the efforts of student affairs, --
consider student affairs full partners in the institution, -- challenge student
affairs professionals to make greater contributions to the institution.
In addition, student personnel preparation programs must be revised so that
they place more emphasis on the development of the skills necessary for the
profession, including management and organizational skills. And finally, the
national associations for student affairs must provide direction for new
professional roles and promote continuing professional education at all levels.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Baldridge, J. Victor, Frank R. Kemerer, and Kenneth C. Green. THE ENROLLMENT
CRISIS: FACTORS, ACTORS, AND IMPACTS. AAHE-ERIC Higher Education Research Report
No. 3. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education, 1982. ED 128
Borland, David T. "Organizational Development: A Professional Imperative." In
STUDENT DEVELOPMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION, ed. Don G. Creamer. Cincinnati:
American College Personnel Association, 1980.
McConnell, T.R. "Student Personnel Services: Central or Peripheral?" NASPA
JOURNAL 8 (1970): 55-63.
Nelson, Jr., and H. Murphy. "The Projected Effects of Enrollment and Budget
Reductions on Student Personnel Services." NASPA JOURNAL 17 (1970): 2-10.
Shaffer, R.H. "Critical Dimensions of Student Affairs in the Decades Ahead."
JOURNAL OF COLLEGE STUDENT PERSONNEL 25 (l984): 112-114.
Silverman, Robert J. "The Student Personnel Administrator as a Leading Edge
Leader." NASPA JOURNAL 18 (1980): 10-15.