Future-Proof: Reimagining Student Affairs for Modern Learners

NASPA-UPCEA-InsideTrack Whitepaper Outlines a Framework for Inclusive Support of Today’s Learners
By Jake New
Whiteboard Advisors

The student affairs profession has existed for nearly 150 years, beginning with tutors who supervised residence halls and were responsible for disciplining the privileged few students who were able to pursue higher education at that time. As the demographics of higher education changed, the practice of student affairs changed with them and evolved to meet the needs of students at those moments in time. Today, we’re in the midst of a new evolutionary stage as student affairs adapts to the needs of a new generation of students.

As parents, working adults, and part-time students increasingly become the majority of higher education students, demand for more flexible—and on-demand—offerings has accelerated and online programs are quickly growing in popularity. Higher education institutions have responded in kind by launching and expanding online and hybrid learning programs to provide education how and when today’s students want it. But questions still remain. How should colleges and universities support the growing number of students enrolled in these new programs? Despite the rapid growth in online and hybrid learning, this question is still largely unresolved as support for working adult and online learners is a relatively nascent issue for student affairs professionals. In a survey of NASPA members, just 7 percent said that the existing functional areas of student affairs address the needs of online learners to a great extent; 49 percent said they do not address those needs at all.

To define emerging issues and best practices for supporting all learners effectively, InsideTrack, NASPA, and UPCEA convened a group of senior leaders in student affairs and adult/online learning in Chicago last fall. The gathering featured spirited discussion and debate on what the future holds for student support services and student affairs. To share insights from the discussion and engage other leaders in this vital dialog, the three organizations commissioned Whiteboard Advisors to develop this whitepaper, which distills key findings and observations from some of the country’s top experts.