Walking in my students’ shoes makes me a better college leader

Tim Goral's picture

I have developed a new math equation for higher education leadership. It combines my personal observations and experiences as president of Paul Quinn College with traditional higher education practices. My equation comes with the warning that neither mathematicians nor my wife have approved it. It is called the “Emerging College’s Presidential Principle” and it states: 25 + 20(40% + 73%) + (2 x 13) + Kazakhstan = An Emerging College’s President.

Today’s college student experience is vastly different than mine was 25 years ago when I graduated from Oberlin College. Back then, “working” for most of us meant work-study jobs on campus or user-friendly shifts at a moving company to cover an unexpected expense. However, times have changed. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 40 percent of full-time college students now hold regular jobs. Among those students, 3 out of 5 work at least 20 hours per week. Among part-time students, 73 percent hold jobs and 4 out of 5 of them log more than 20 hours per week on those jobs. Moreover, a third of part-time students work full time.

The reason for the growth in the number of working students is well settled. We know that the exploding cost of higher education combined with the downturn in the economy has forced students to work more in order to meet their financial obligations. However, what has not been established is an effective plan for truly supporting these students.

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