Take a breath and do not feel defensive. When the reporter from The Chronicle of Higher Education called to get my thoughts on the conclusions drawn from the Delta Cost Project’s report on the higher education workforce, I took a breath and did not become defensive. The conclusion of the report is that the big increase in the higher education workforce is attributable in large part to what is labeled “Student Services.” The question is whether the expenses are justifiable or unnecessary bloat.
I told the reporter that if one looked at the numbers under the classifications “Professionals” and “Student Services” and compared the numbers to full-time faculty, one would get the sense that more resources were going toward student services professional staff than to faculty. However, there is a problem with labeling what are student services.
The Lumina-funded study we did at NASPA a couple of years ago about resources expended on student services was a clear demonstration that what is described as student services is all over the place, depending on the college or university. Further, if one reads what is labeled as student services in the Delta Cost study, it’s obvious that student services cannot be aggregated and referenced as one would the classification of “faculty.” The bottom line, though, according to the study, is that “hiring practices favor non-instructional professional positions.”
I assured the reporter that one would be hard-pressed to find a college or university president who would choose to fund student services if there were a choice between the academic program and student services. Upon investigation, one will likely find that increases in student services are related to governmental regulations and avoiding the risks of liability.
The general conclusion from this study adds kindling to the smoldering between academic and student affairs, and I encourage student affairs professionals to not be defensive but to do the job you were hired to do. There is too much work to be done to spend energy justifying your existence or explaining the reality of your work to those who have already prejudged.