Today’s Students Need
More Directive Support
BY MARTHA KANTER
In decades past, many student affairs administrators, counselors, and mental health professionals saw college students by appointment and provided guidance according to the training they received in the 1960s and 1970s. They offered students their best personal counseling, academic advice, and therapy, often directing them to an array of campus support services—if only the students would
walk in their doors. As the former chancellor of a large community college district in California, with previous student affairs experience as a dean and vice president, I believed in their essential role: counseling, advising, guiding, and connecting students to services and support necessary for college success. Now, as the U.S.
Under Secretary of Education, I believe that strengthening student affairs on college campuses is vital in the
21st century. Student affairs is ever more important to achieving the national goals that President Obama has
set for America’s economic growth, social prosperity, and international competitiveness.
Our president wants America to have “the best educated,
most competitive workforce in the world” by 2020. To
accomplish this, student affairs will have to align more closely
with academic affairs and play a larger leadership role in our
institutions of higher education. Why is this so important?
Nearly half of America’s undergraduates don’t finish their
baccalaureate degrees in six years. We lose too many students
that could graduate. It’s that simple. Research over the last 10
years has shown that integrating high-quality counseling and
advising with traditional core classes in the first two years of
the undergraduate experience can increase the retention and
persistence of students by anywhere from 10 to 20 percent.
We have to learn from this research and apply the best practices to reconnect with the lost half of our students.
Traditionally, student affairs has played a secondary role
in campus administration: It is the office that keeps a college