Introduction



Arguably, the most vital entity in higher education is the student. In principle this axiom has been forwarded by higher education institutions for many years. Accordingly, criticism and concern persist with respect to the extent to which today’s higher education student is understood and accommodated within higher education.

Education, by and large, is a purchase made by students, parents or guardians through legally enforceable contracts, whether written or oral, whether expressed (make knowingly) or implied (made by actions or expectations). An on-going and increasing awareness of the student and institutional relationship, and implied obligations to each other, should occur.

Furthermore, programs aimed at improving relationships between student and faculty are imperative in this regard as well as a visible sign underscoring the importance of students and their desire for more personal attention. The academic community also must further its research and accountability efforts aimed at assessing the quality of its educational programs. This is an obligation we should not disregard if we are sincere about meeting our primary obligation to our students: to do all that is necessary to provide a total, quality learning experience.

Higher education administration, faculty, staff, trustees and political leaders must share commitment to and actively seek understanding of the student as the central  focus of our institutions of higher learning. This extends to learning about student subcultures and includes developing abilities and skills to respond to their unique and common characteristics, goals and needs. This is particularly important for faculty and other student development educators, as they are the professionals needing to be most responsive to the students on a daily basis. To act on this initiative, through advisement and instruction, it is necessary to know the developmental needs of students’ from the outset.

To date, the research, demographics and observations by experts in the field tell us that we have, and will continue to have, a most diverse student population attending our higher education institutions (see Table 1).

Table 1. Characteristics Relevant to Understanding College Students and Their Needs

 

Diversity of Background


 

Race, ethnicity

Religion

Socioeconomic origin

Gender

Sexual orientation

Older or younger students

Generational Cohorts

Students with disabilities

International students

 

 

 Situational Differences


 

Full-or part-time study

Working while enrolled

Academic program and degree or career objective

Residential or commuter students

Intermittent students

Transfer students

Students with multiple enrollments

Differences by type of institution

Online students

Differences by organization or program affiliation (i.e. Student Athlete)

 

 

Source: Komives, S.R., Woodard, D.B. & Associates (2003). Student services: A handbook for the Profession (4th Ed ).

Thus, the need to work more diligently to better understand our students coupled with the reality that teaching, learning, and development occur anywhere has never been more vital to the mission of higher education than today. As such, what happens to the student outside the classroom affects what happens to the student in the classroom. Also, the opposite is true relative to student satisfaction and learning.

The current composition of higher education’s student population has never been more diverse. Future projections are predicted to pose an even greater challenge to higher education instructors charged with the responsibility for facilitating student learning. In today’s universities and colleges we find approximately 16,612,000 students enrolled (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2005). Students matriculating in higher education are culturally and linguistically diverse, cognitively able, and socially and politically complex. They represent a cross section or variety of age groups, cultures, career, and living experiences. They are goal oriented, generally pragmatic and more often than not, lead multifaceted lives while matriculating in higher education.

Institutions of higher education give indication of the need for myriad forms or levels of commitment to instructional excellence across the arts and sciences and professionally oriented programs. However, in order for higher education to effectively fulfill its instructional mission, it will need to establish and maintain the instructional competence of its teaching faculty. Put more succinctly, higher education must fully dedicate itself to both improving and advancing its most fundamental function as a developmental-learning environment.

In this regard, clear characterizations of the college student given the expectation that the dynamic teaching-learning process in higher education can be effected in developmental terms, i.e., how changes in students occur and what these changes resemble, higher education administrators, instructors, advisors, and staff need operational understandings concerning the psychological and social processes which foster development and learning of the contemporary higher education student.

Arguably, the most vital entity in higher education is the student. In principle this axiom has been forwarded by higher education institutions for many years. Accordingly, criticism and concern persist with respect to the extent to which today’s higher education student is understood and accommodated within higher education.

Education, by and large, is a purchase made by students, parents or guardians through legally enforceable contracts, whether written or oral, whether expressed (make knowingly) or implied (made by actions or expectations). An on-going and increasing awareness of the student and institutional relationship, and implied obligations to each other, should occur.

Furthermore, programs aimed at improving relationships between student and faculty are imperative in this regard as well as a visible sign underscoring the importance of students and their desire for more personal attention. The academic community also must further its research and accountability efforts aimed at assessing the quality of its educational programs. This is an obligation we should not disregard if we are sincere about meeting our primary obligation to our students: to do all that is necessary to provide a total, quality learning experience.

Higher education administration, faculty, staff, trustees and political leaders must share commitment to and actively seek understanding of the student as the central  focus of our institutions of higher learning. This extends to learning about student subcultures and includes developing abilities and skills to respond to their unique and common characteristics, goals and needs. This is particularly important for faculty and other student development educators, as they are the professionals needing to be most responsive to the students on a daily basis. To act on this initiative, through advisement and instruction, it is necessary to know the developmental needs of students’ from the outset.

To date, the research, demographics and observations by experts in the field tell us that we have, and will continue to have, a most diverse student population attending our higher education institutions (see Table 1).

Table 1. Characteristics Relevant to Understanding College Students and Their Needs

 

Diversity of Background


 

Race, ethnicity

Religion

Socioeconomic origin

Gender

Sexual orientation

Older or younger students

Generational Cohorts

Students with disabilities

International students

 

 

 Situational Differences


 

Full-or part-time study

Working while enrolled

Academic program and degree or career objective

Residential or commuter students

Intermittent students

Transfer students

Students with multiple enrollments

Differences by type of institution

Online students

Differences by organization or program affiliation (i.e. Student Athlete)

 

 

Source: Komives, S.R., Woodard, D.B. & Associates (2003). Student services: A handbook for the Profession (4th Ed ).

Thus, the need to work more diligently to better understand our students coupled with the reality that teaching, learning, and development occur anywhere has never been more vital to the mission of higher education than today. As such, what happens to the student outside the classroom affects what happens to the student in the classroom. Also, the opposite is true relative to student satisfaction and learning.

The current composition of higher education’s student population has never been more diverse. Future projections are predicted to pose an even greater challenge to higher education instructors charged with the responsibility for facilitating student learning. In today’s universities and colleges we find approximately 16,612,000 students enrolled (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2005). Students matriculating in higher education are culturally and linguistically diverse, cognitively able, and socially and politically complex. They represent a cross section or variety of age groups, cultures, career, and living experiences. They are goal oriented, generally pragmatic and more often than not, lead multifaceted lives while matriculating in higher education.

Institutions of higher education give indication of the need for myriad forms or levels of commitment to instructional excellence across the arts and sciences and professionally oriented programs. However, in order for higher education to effectively fulfill its instructional mission, it will need to establish and maintain the instructional competence of its teaching faculty. Put more succinctly, higher education must fully dedicate itself to both improving and advancing its most fundamental function as a developmental-learning environment.

In this regard, clear characterizations of the college student given the expectation that the dynamic teaching-learning process in higher education can be effected in developmental terms, i.e., how changes in students occur and what these changes resemble, higher education administrators, instructors, advisors, and staff need operational understandings concerning the psychological and social processes which foster development and learning of the contemporary higher education student.