Put students first

Anyone who knows me could tell you that I have a deep and passionate love for higher education, and yes, I know I’m crazy about it.  

My love for higher education is specifically focused on student success and retention. And during my time as intern for the New Student and Family Programs Foundations, I was introduced to the idea of having colleges and universities being student ready, rather than having students be college ready. 

What it means for a college or university to be student-ready is that these institutes provide support to all students and meet students where they are. A student-ready institute understands the struggles that college students face, understands the educational needs of students, and provides support to students so that they can succeed academically and graduate.  

A student-ready institution would mean all, yes, I mean every department, including admissions, the business office, the registrar’s office, and even campus safety, would be intentionally “designed to facilitate students’ progressive advancement toward college completion and positive post-college outcomes,” according to “Becoming a Student-Ready College: A New Culture of Student Success.”

And while some may argue that a student’s success is dependent on the student themselves, sometimes their success and ability to get there is out of their control due to many barriers. 

For college students who are first generation, it is extremely difficult because they are the first within their family to navigate the difficulties of higher education.  

For students who have family members who have attended college and graduated, they are more likely to have the support and understanding of how institutions function and how to achieve academically.  

By reexamining and reworking the structure of institutions to be more student-focused, students are going to feel better supported through their academic journey which is essential for success.  

This would mean having clear and constant communication with students about the community resources that are available to them, whether that be academic support, financial aid, the registrar’s office, donation centers, or counseling. But it is also making sure that the people working in these places understand how to work with any and every student who walks through their door.  

No student should ever leave a university office feeling as if they were dismissed or not important to the institution.  

Having training focused on supporting students’ well-being and success should be required of every department on college campuses to ensure that faculty and staff are equipped with the knowledge and skills that are needed for a student-ready campus.  

In 2021, Education Data Initiative reported that the dropout rate for undergraduate college students is 40%. 

They also reported that 30% of the dropout rate are freshmen students leaving before even starting their freshmen year.  

By reducing the barriers to a student’s success by changing policies, processes, and practices, we can increase the retention rate at universities such as FSU while also increasing our graduation rate while we are at it.  

I hear time and time again from individuals who are associated with this University complaining about low enrollment numbers and how we need to do more to increase it – which I agree with. It would be great to see an increase in enrollment at FSU.  

However, what about our students who are currently enrolled?  

And while we do have a retention committee, and I thank those who have made this a priority, it needs to be a whole University effort. We have students at FSU who do not feel supported, listened to, or properly communicated with, and they are leaving.  

We should be focusing on the students we already have, more than the possible students we could be enrolling in because without our current students, we wouldn’t be here and there wouldn’t be prospective students.  

I am not asking our faculty and staff to hold our hand throughout the four years. I am simply asking that faculty and staff at all universities and colleges need to be our support system that many of us do not have.