As more colleges and universities become student-ready institutions, they could face some speed bumps along the way. In the last post, we shared examples from schools that have already made some admirable changes. Now, let’s pinpoint five of the most pressing challenges higher education leaders may face during the transition to becoming student-ready.
1 – The Comfort of Tradition
For an institution to be truly student-ready, the goal to educate must exist in tandem with the goal to empower – especially inside the classroom. Professors and teachers who have relied on the same syllabus and coursework for years must reimagine a different experience for their students. In a must-read article about diversity and student-readiness, North Central Texas College’s Dr. Cherly Furdge, wrote: “My faculty and I laugh because at every division meeting I say, ‘If your syllabus looks exactly the same as it did two years ago, you have not allowed yourself to grow.’ The reality is we’re not just teachers, we’re also learners. If we’re going to be student-ready . . . we must create our own professional development by reading or listening to books that will help us understand people from diverse backgrounds.”
2 – Implicit Bias and Lack of Diversity
Implicit bias refers to the unconscious beliefs or attitudes we have toward people because of stereotypes. This leads us to take action or make decisions that go against our conscious beliefs about fairness and equality. In the context of higher education, implicit bias contributes to structural inequities that negatively impact both students and employees of the institution. A recent study by McKinsey found that only 7% of four-year institutions have improved racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic representation among students. The numbers are about the same for staff and faculty diversity. We must do better. At student-ready colleges and universities, DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is a non-negotiable part of a holistic campus ecosystem.
3 – Misconceptions about Academic Readiness
Some higher education leaders could argue that a transition to student-ready colleges gives the impression that grades and academic preparation aren’t as important. That’s simply not true. Baruch College’s S. David Wu put it this way: “I am not suggesting that we abandon admissions standards or stop scrutinizing academic preparation . . . What I am saying is that, as educators, we should challenge the mindset of seeking out those perfect ‘college-ready’ students while excluding those who are considered ‘nontraditional’ – often due to social and economic circumstances. I believe we can have high expectations and high standards, but not at the cost of excluding a certain population.”
4 – Prioritization of Services and Programs
The idea of a student-ready institution casts a wide net for what programs and services to offer. As 2021 study on student readiness found that institutional stakeholders see social-emotional support services as critical to student success, it would be wise to start there. When these services are emphasized in an accreditation review, it indicates a deeper commitment and higher likelihood of funding. Additionally, it may become difficult to manage all the technology, software, and infrastructure needed to keep up with student success and career readiness efforts. Across departments, student-ready institutions must be prepared to find centralized, user-friendly ed tech platforms.
5 – Stagnation in the Idea Stage
Mission statements and multi-year plans will only be impactful if they spark ongoing action. While the idea of institutional transformation can feel daunting, there are more and more people in higher education doing the hard work alongside you. First things first: read “Becoming a Student-Ready College” for case studies and inspiration. Then use that framework to develop an action and accountability plan. It’s an honorable thing to spend time making meaningful, necessary changes.
More Resources About Student-Ready Institutions:
Everything You Need to Know About Student-Ready Institutions
Examples of Student-Ready Colleges and Universities