Since the pandemic, student affairs professionals have been hard at work getting their students back on track. From changes to learning environments (virtual and in-person), to increased struggles in academic & campus-life, and ever-increasing needs for financial & wellness efforts, many admins are struggling to keep up.
Factor in the number of student affairs professionals leaving the field to pursue other endeavors, along with shrinking resources, and it becomes clear why so many student affairs professionals are struggling to keep up a positive morale, and why they’re becoming more reactive in their strategies.
Discover the three main issues facing student affairs professionals, as well as how to maximize efficiency with limited resources, and how to save valuable admin time to begin reimplementing proactive student life strategies.
1. Maintaining or Increasing Student Retention Post-Pandemic.
As always, student retention continues to be one of the main metrics student affairs professionals are measured upon. And with so many new changes and challenges that have arisen since the pandemic, it can be hard to get ahead of the curve and begin implementing long term, proactive strategies.
With fewer professionals, and an increasing amount of daily challenges, making sure at-risk students don’t fall through the cracks is easier said than done. In the keynote presentation of the 2022 NASFAA Virtual Conference, Dr. Kevin Kruger, CEO of NASPA, said that “higher education professionals can go about helping students succeed through personal contact, mentoring, and proactive advising initiatives” and that “the future of student affairs will be linked to student success rather than crisis management, as it had been in responding to the pandemic.”
Forget the one-size-fits-all model. By creating an environment where students can easily access information, either on their own, with the help of their peers, or with an advisor, student affairs professionals can help students feel empowered, at ease, and feel as though they truly belong to their campus community.
Not only that, by allowing students the option to get help independently, admins can get some valuable time back in their already over-scheduled day-to-day.
“72% of [student affairs] professionals anticipate having an increased focus on leveraging technology to foster community engagement online as part of their current role in the next five years.”
-NASPA’s Charting the Future of Student Affairs Report
And with access to community analytics tools (that integrate with your pre-existing systems), admins can gain visibility on things like: Which resources are students best-responding to? Who attended certain events? Who hasn’t viewed your notification? As well as reach out to students who may need an extra nudge of encouragement.
2. Combatting Increasingly Difficult Mental Health Challenges on Campus.
According to a recent Salesforce Report, “76% [of] Students say maintaining their wellbeing is a top challenge.” And many of these students look to their Student Affairs professionals for help.
And, despite NASPA CEO’s sentiment that student affairs will be linked to “student success rather than crisis management,” a recent NASPA survey found that “70% of [higher ed professionals] anticipate having an increase in responsibility to handle crisis management for students in the next 5 years, and 50% anticipate having an increased responsibility with student counseling.”
In order for admins to not become overwhelmed by this increase in responsibilities, it’s important to establish centralized, holistic strategies, and implement effective tools to make sure every student feels supported, in whatever way suits them best.
“I can see a future of student affairs that serves the 19-year-old who’s living in a residence hall the same way it would serve the part-time adult learner who’s over 25 and may have dependents. Everyone can, and should, succeed.”
-Amelia Parnell, vice president for research and policy at NASPA
Make sure students can easily locate mental health and counseling services by offering easily accessible resource guides. Whether you have a dedicated center or virtual services, provide all necessary contact information and details into one easily accessible guide that students can share and refer to when necessary. And if possible, take advantage of virtual maps to show students exactly where these services are located.
By finding holistic, long term solutions, admins can help ease a bit of the pressure, while continuing to support an ever increasing number of vulnerable and disadvantaged students.
3. Filling the Growing Student Affairs Staff Shortage Gap
As we’ve outlined above, the support that students receive from student affairs professionals is often tied to their own campus success, it’s crucial that admins feel supported and happy, so they themselves retain.
During the 2022 NASFAA Virtual Conference, NASPA’s CEO, Dr. Kevin Kruger, “delved into the implications of the labor shortage and how it affects both campus operations and the options available to prospective students who may be more drawn to the workforce than enrolling in higher education.”
In order to continue drawing students to higher education, we must ensure that their experiences are positive, and that begins with making sure our administrators feel taken care of. And with so many admins leaving the profession, it’s crucial for universities and colleges alike to start implementing better support systems for their staff, as they would for their students.
Post-Pandemic Solutions: Leveraging Technology to Implement Proactive Student Life Strategies
With increased concerns regarding staff-retention, student retention and mental health on campus, it’s important that colleges and universities put structures in place to better equip our admins for the challenges to come.
And while in-person support remains unmatched, there are never enough admins to individually support students at-scale. By giving student affair admins tools to provide hybrid support, both in-person and online, they can reach more students, while easing some of the pressure from themselves – although it often requires a bit of tech.
In fact, “four of the top 10 areas that NASPA survey respondents anticipate will increase as part of their current roles in the next 5 years directly relate to technology—online student communications (75%), leveraging technology to foster community engagement online (72%), online services (69%), and information technology use (66%).”
And by finding a single tool that can do all of these things, admins can save on their already limited budgets, while maximizing their overall impact and encouraging a well rounded, satisfying student experience.