“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” –Henry Ford
It is easy to lose track of why one makes the choices that they do. It is difficult to think about the decisions of one and how it will affect many. In higher education, the decisions of the individual heavily influence the experience of many.
To make choices that benefit all and to work together to achieve a common goal can be considered success. In higher education, success isn’t just part of the conversation, it’s something one must consistently measure and provide an outcome for.
While often in higher education, we talk about the positives, there are many situations and instances where the negatives are painfully evident. To better understand student success and how it relates to the student experience and student perceptions, we must challenge ourselves to think of ways we can improve the experience for all, and not just a few.
Where do we start?
The Chronicle of Higher Education published a blog post about student success and how institutions must evaluate current practices to ensure that students are given the best experience and not limited in their opportunities.
The blog, written by Hilary Pennington, is titled “For Student Success, Stop Debating and Start Improving.” I believe that this title is encompassing of the student experience and how students can, and often do, have different perspectives based on their experiences. These experiences are integral to the success of each student.
Pennington is well-versed in the higher education field. She has worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Pennington begins the post with a central theme, where can higher education help someone go. How can it determine success?
“Historically, higher education has fueled social and economic mobility in America. But today that contribution is at risk. Attainment gaps between high- and low-income students have doubled over the past 10 years.”
Why does it matter?
There is a real problem in our system. While the intention behind supporting students is to help them be successful, what we say is not always what we do. There are improvements to be made. The creation of these improvements will help us support student success and continue to influence student perceptions of university presidents.
“Only 9 percent of students from low-income households have earned any postsecondary credentials by the time they are 26, compared with more than 50 percent of students from higher-income households. We must do far more, and with far more speed, than we are doing now to close this gap.”
What have we learned?
It is not entirely about the experience of students and how institutions are supporting a diverse array of students and professionals. It is about the intention behind the action.
“We are learning that structured (and often limited) choice works best for most students. Honors programs in elite colleges and professional education in business, law, and medicine embody structured choice. If this works for the best-prepared students, we should provide it to those who need it most. For example, a recent study by the Community College Research Center shows that community-college students who enter a specific program of study within their first year are much more likely to earn credentials and/or transfer than are students who enter a concentration a year or two later.”
Students who feel like they matter to their campus and their program are more likely to be successful and engaged members of the community. All of the other factors discussed on this blog, and the terms that reinforce or influence student perceptions are connected. The experience of students is not a single experience or happening. It is a mixture of times, opportunities and chances to define an experience and understand a culture.
Institutions and students can move forward, as Pennington explains, but it is not a simple process.
“Change will require multiple points of view and many people working on different dimensions of the problem over a sustained period of time. We should put counterproductive debates behind us, and set about the urgent business of the revolutionary improvement that students and our country need.”
Where do we go from here?
To move forward and to change experiences and perspectives requires commitment and understanding. It is not a simple and stagnant experience. To move forward means that everyone, from the student to the president, must all believe that their time, talents and experience is important. No matter the circumstances, we cannot begin to change experiences if we do not work to improve.
What can you do?
Be a force for change. The student experience and student success starts with your story.
- As a student
- Ask questions to better understand practices
- Make suggestions
- Tell the story of your experience
- Seek ways to inspire action in your field of influence
- As a professional
- Tell the story of students
- Listen to what makes them successful
- Understand how you can make a chance or inspire action in your immediate field of influence
Interested in learning more about this topic? Check out these resources.