Who Will Teach Me at College?

College GuideIt doesn’t not occur to most college-bound students to ask the simple questions, “who will teach me at college?”

Nearly everyone assumes – certainly a reasonable assumption – the teachers at college will be fully tenured, college professors. Or, at least, graduate students on their way to becoming college professors.

But we can no longer make that assumption.

If you have read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get  a Job, you will know that one of the questions you should ask before you apply to any college or university is who teaches first year students.  Are the instructors full-time, tenured faculty, or are they adjunct teachers or graduate assistants?

According to a recent report, the majority of professors are now adjuncts, teaching part-time in several schools.  They are often given little advance notice of what course they will be teaching. They may not even have an office or office hours, making it difficult for a first year student to get advice outside of the classroom.

There are many excellent adjunct professors and graduate teaching assistants. But I do not believe that they are the best instructors for first-year students.

Schools that use adjuncts do so to save money. The interests of the students, in my opinion, are secondary to the monetary benefit of using part-time instructors.  Adjunct faculty cannot provide the same kind of educational experience and academic advising provided by a full-time professor.

I believe the classroom professor is the most important factor in student success, especially in the first year.

The best schools in the country put their best teachers in first-year classrooms.  Be certain you know who teaches first-year courses before turning in your application.

Reinventing Your University

university studentsReinventing your university may be the only way it can move forward in the 21st Century.

In the book, Reinventing the University – Managing and Financing Higher Educationeach of the 14 contributors emphasize that the successful university of the future will be the one which has the capacity to create new structural paradigms which will direct how it conducts business and how it delivers its educational product.

The newly structured enterprise will be both seamless and transparent in the systems and administrative structures used to deliver services to students.

This week’s message, similar to the one of last week, celebrates those innovative colleges and universities with dynamic leaders who are willing to initiate change in an attempt to make the college experience a better one for those who attend, who teach and who administer.

Over the course of my administrative career, I had the opportunity for a brief period of time, to manage both the enrollment management and alumni and fundraising departments for my university.

The reporting structure was unique and would not work in today’s environment but it did, for a time, reveal that hardened “functional silos” could become more flexible and transparent.

The lack of bureaucracy made it possible to respond quickly to enrollment demands and donor requests. There was a consistent and integrated marketing message from the time of a student’s application to the time after graduation. The internal and external messages were consistent, reinforcing the school’s image among its key constituencies. The systems from student enrollment to alumni involvement were both seamless and transparent.

Consider the similarities between the advancement and enrollment functions:

  • Both are labor intensive and customer service directed
  • Success for both functions is measured in concrete numbers.
  • The image of the institution heavily influences the work of both departments
  • Both are revenue driven
  • Both departments require staff with good analytical, organizational and people-oriented skills
  • Both are subject to the economic realities of the day.

I am not suggesting that this model would or could be adopted by other schools. But I am suggesting that changing administrative responsibilities and reporting structures should be considered.

In 1998, Spencer Johnson wrote, Who Moved My Cheese,The popular bestseller championed the need for change. The author stressed that change involves setting different rules, making the work environment uncertain and unpredictable. How much of what Mr. Johnson wrote 16 years ago would apply to many colleges and universities today?

Questions About College Admissions, Part 2

We began our post last week discussing some questions we wished we’d asked about college admissions.

I mentioned our friends, Sydney and Tom Hale. They just finished reading my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job.

The Hales expressed their disappointment they never thought to ask some of the questions listed in my book when they applied to college and when their children were applying to colleges.

Based on what I heard from them,  I will answer a few of those questions. Other questions and answers appear, as I mentioned, in the post published June 26.

Pre-registration and Registration Processes

  • Sydney was almost a senior in college before she finally felt comfortable navigating the pre-registration and registration processes.  As a result, she often did not get the classes she needed and wanted.

Takeaway:  After you read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, you will know, before enrolling, what you need to do to successfully register for all of your college courses.

Applying to College

  • Tom was an excellent student but did not really think about applying to college until late in his junior year.  He wished he had spent more time in high school preparing for college.

Takeaway:  Read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Joband you will learn exactly what you need to do to get into the best school for you and your family and when you need to begin the process.

Involvement in College Life

  • Sydney urges readers of my book to never follow one’s boyfriend/girlfriend or best friend to a particular school.  She also urges college students to get involved as early as possible in the life of the school and to think twice about living off-campus as that can be a very isolating experience.

Takeaway:  I think Sydney’s advice is valuable.  The experiences you have outside the classroom will affect your entire college life.

Fundraising and Career Counseling

Career CounselingFrequent readers of this blog know I am a big supporter of elevating career counseling centers within the ranks of the higher education pecking order.

So when Melissa Korn, a writer at The Wall Street Journal, reported about the marriage of fundraising offices with career counseling offices in several colleges and universities, I knew I would share this information with you.

Many schools folded their career centers into their development offices. Amherst College in Massachusetts, for example, changed the reporting structure a few months ago. Colgate University in Hamilton, New York; Williams College in Massachusetts and Scripps College in Claremont, California, will all make the change July 1st. Two years ago, the University of Chicago merged career services, admissions and enrollment management with the advancement office.

Students are assigned career counselors in the first year and admission counselors meet with potential employers as they travel around the country and the world for next year’s class. Alumni and fundraising staff have a wealth of information on graduates who may be able to provide internships or even jobs to graduates.

Combined budgets make for more robust career counseling outreach activities. Giving career centers a seat at the table is long overdue.

Whether you agree or not, parents and prospective college students are asking questions about a school’s career services before they apply. Keeping that function separate from the enrollment management and alumni and fundraising functions, seems obsolete given the economic realities not just in the United States but around the world.

Change comes slow in higher education and disruptive change even slower. Turf wars are inevitable and administrative silos exist on every college campus.

I hope one person reading this week’s blog has both the vision and determination to consider making career services an essential part of marketing, enrollment management and alumni and fundraising. Consider the synergy!

Don't discount the quality of community colleges

Once considered a “stepchild” of higher education, many community colleges are now innovators and well deserving of the title.

Half of all current college students attend a community college.

Federal and state funding for community colleges has increased over the past several years and a great deal is being done at the community college level to match majors with workforce needs.

I recommend, especially if finances are a major issue for you, taking a serious look at enrolling in a two year school first and then transferring to a four-year college or university.

This will save you the cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree at a more expensive school while still allowing you to graduate with a degree from that four year school.  Most community college students live at home so that saves you the cost of residence hall expenses.  And most community college students work and do not borrow to meet living expenses.

If you decide to go the community college route, do the same investigation that you would do if you planned on attending a four year school.

  •  Find out the successful transfer rate of the community college, the schools students transfer into, the percentage of students who stay for two years, the most popular majors, and the average debt.
  •  Find out how many of the students with an associate’s degree get a job at graduation.
  • Be certain that your future career interests can be met by the curriculum.

I have a colleague who recently told me that he put all three of his children through college and graduate school with a cumulative debt of $90,000.  And all three first attended a community college!