Professional Development on a Shoestring Budget
BY JOHN R. LAWS
Increasingly diverse student bodies, advances in technology, changing organizational structures, and heightened societal
demands have made professional development for higher education professionals more important than ever. Yet, obstacles
continue to plague student affairs staff members.
Many professionals do not believe they have access to
professional development opportunities or feel they can afford
the time. At community colleges, student affairs employees
work in functional areas with little staff support. Their
multiple responsibilities, large workloads, and limited
scheduling flexibility keep many from engaging in regular
training and professional development.
Time is a big challenge to obtaining professional development. Work obligations, family responsibilities, and the need
to maintain the everyday operation of an organization can
limit participation. Smart professionals and supervisors weigh
opportunities against improved efficiency, discovery of new
approaches, staff retention, and user satisfaction.
The cost of staff time out of the office, conference/work-shop registration, and travel can also keep staff members
from engaging in professional development. Costs can be
minimized by looking at networking and collaboration
opportunities, utilizing regional offerings, and seeking low-cost or free alternatives.
Whatever the challenges, any staff member interested in
pursuing professional development opportunities should
have the full support of his or her supervisor and institution.
To ensure that support, information should be gathered and
presented to show how professional development relates to
institutional goals, outcomes, or the educational plans of the
individual and how it connects to institutional priorities,
retention, improved student success, and diversity awareness.
Remember that the learning college concept supports staff
development as well as student development.
Opportunities to Facilitate Professional
Student affairs staff members at community colleges and other
institutions with limited budgets and staff should consider the
NASPA’s Student Services Institutes. The institutes
offer a core curriculum specific to the student affairs area,
combine it with the unique needs of each institution, and gear
it to professionals and para-professionals with or without
college degrees in the field who now work in student affairs.
The Student Services Institutes allow multiple institutions to
combine their staffs while still ensuring customization of
offerings. The institutes’ pre-assessment tools are used to
ensure that the curriculum and presenters are well matched to
participants. To learn more about the Student Services
Institutes, contact Yvette Galloway at the NASPA office (202-
265-7500, ext. 1173).
Regional Conferences and Workshops. Regional opportunities are often less expensive, easier to travel to, and more
intimate than national conferences. Facilitators frequently are
the same people who present at national events. Due to
reduced costs and shorter time commitments, many professionals choose regional events over annual conferences.
State Meetings. Frequently NASPA hosts one- or two-day
drive-in workshops or conferences that are very cost effective.
These events range from skill development to topical forums.
To learn more, contact your regional vice president or Joseph
DeSanto at the NASPA office (202-265-7500, ext. 117).
Campus Resources. Institutions may offer classes and
workshops to local companies and agencies, but not market
them to offices on their own
campuses. The offices of workforce
development, human resources, and
others may provide opportunities at
little to no cost to staff. Do not
overlook opportunities to collaborate with nearby institutions to
attend their events or invite them to
yours at reduced costs.
Webinars and Video
Conferences. Online and satellite
broadcasts can provide opportunities, especially when partnering with
others. Watch professional literature
and advertisements for these events.
Some of these events are infomercials, so use caution when
Visit the NASPA
Web site at
John R. Laws is dean of student affairs at Ivy Tech Community College
in Lafayette, Ind.