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Articles: Student Services

In today’s competitive higher education market, colleges and universities must prove the value of the degrees they bestow to graduates each year. Traditional measures, such as graduation rates, grade point averages, and cohort default rates, have become only a few of the ways colleges and universities are evaluated. Students and their parents want to be assured that their investment in a college education will pay off in the form of a self-sustaining and financially-secure career path.

Does autism run in families? Can children with autism grow up to live independently? These questions were part of a survey that tested University of California, Riverside faculty and students’ knowledge of autism spectrum disorder to help guide the support of these students through their college years. More than 1,000 people were quizzed on the prevalence, causes and signs of ASD in the largest known higher ed autism awareness survey.

With so many students depending on community college as their best—and sometimes only—option for higher education, it’s time for community colleges to get their fair share of education funds. While these schools enroll 53 percent of all undergraduate students at public institutions, they receive only about 25 percent of the federal funding available.

Merging departments and cross-training employees reduced the campus “run-around” and eased staff burden.

Delivering student services as important as tutoring, disability assistance, and advising is especially vital at LDS Business College, an open-enrollment school whose student body often faces hardships.

Yet the offices and departments that delivered those services were located all across campus, making it difficult to ensure that students made it to where they needed to go when they had multiple issues to be addressed.

Volunteer mentors assisting students academically is part of a three-pronged approach to helping at-risk students and boosting retention.

Not so long ago, students at LDS Business College in Salt Lake City whose semester grade-point averages fell below a certain level were placed on academic probation. But it did very little to get them the help they needed.

Most college students have a need for academic or financial aid counseling at some point during their college career, whether to get help with course selection or to sort through GI Bill paperwork. Any of the 600 students at Wayland Baptist University’s Phoenix campus in need of this help used to have to spend a fair amount of time just setting up such a meeting.

Because today’s bachelor’s degree no longer conveys sufficient information about the skills graduating seniors possess, there is a market failure that affects employers, students, and colleges. Too many deserving students do not get an interview with potential employers because employers don’t have the appropriate data to find the prospects they need.

Community colleges have a long tradition of articulation agreements with four-year institutions, ensuring that those who begin at a two-year school can seamlessly transfer. As the college trajectory becomes less standard­—even for students with bachelor-sized goals who begin at the community college level—institutional leaders are creating or adding the reverse transfer option to articulation agreements.

As more higher ed institutions develop reverse-transfer agreements, these partnerships “offer great opportunities for the institutions to share data” for mutual benefits, says Dennis Day, vice president for student success and engagement at Johnson County Community College in Kansas.

Here are two ways such collaborative information sharing can benefit both two-year and four-year institutions, as well as students:

Like most state universities in Michigan, the University of Michigan-Dearborn has entered into several reverse-transfer agreements with community colleges in recent years. In determining whether to activate the reverse-transfer process for a particular student, UM-Dearborn examines several criteria, says Ken Kettenbeil, vice chancellor for external relations. Here’s his checklist of items to consider:

Despite jarring news headlines depicting students with six-figure debt levels, the average student borrower’s debt burden is not necessarily devastating.

Among graduates in 2011 who borrowed to pay for higher education, the average loan debt at graduation was $26,600, according to the Project on Student Debt. Only 1.5 percent of borrowers owed $100,000 or more in 2007-2008, according to an analysis by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors Network.

When your students graduate, they're entering a whole new world of job descriptions, resumes, cover letters, networking contacts, interviews, industry jargon, and career fairs. The whole process can be overwhelming.

What's more: Few university career service centers prep their students for the most important aspect of today's job search—all things digital.

Being a financial aid administrator is an accident waiting to happen these days. The soaring costs for college have produced a soaring amount of applications for assistance, creating a constant stream of traffic at the Financial Aid Office. There are times when it resembles an all-day rush hour, with students and parents in a hurry to get in and get out with some part of the gold they’re convinced is hidden there.

New financial literacy programs aim to reduce student default rate. (Getty Images.com/MCT Graphics via Getty Images)

A spooky cloud of crimson smoke dramatizes the dread of overwhelming student debt in “The Red,” a short movie thriller created for SALT, the American Student Assistance financial literacy program for students and alumni.

Less dramatic but noteworthy still, college students logging onto the National Endowment for Financial Education’s CashCourse can take a “Financial Realities” quiz to test their knowledge. In the opening question, they’re asked what will have the worst impact on their finances: gourmet coffee drinks, borrowing money, or spending without a plan.

The interest in financial literacy has expanded beyond the financial office, which is where Lyssa Thaden, financial education content manager at American Student Assistance, used to focus her pitches.

“Now, at a stakeholder meeting, I’ll have someone from the financial aid office but also someone from admissions and enrollment management,” says Thaden, who consults with school sponsors of SALT, ASA’s financial literacy program. “The marketing folks show up, the residence life people show up, and even alumni.”

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