I started my career in higher education as an admissions counselor for my alma mater. In this role I was a Graduate Assistant tasked with traveling my assigned geographic territory to visit targeted high schools during the day and represent the institution at college fairs at night.
After two years as a “road runner” I transitioned into an Assistant Director position at a nearby school. For those with experience in this field, we know that this still means traveling within my territory in addition to the responsibility of reading applications for admission and everything else that comes with transitioning from a GA to “full time employee”.
Over the years there have been many, many innovations in the ways institutions engage with and attract prospective students. College search and help sites made it easier for students to remain “stealth” while comparing institutions they are considering. The COVID-19 pandemic poured rocket fuel on the innovation of incorporating video into recruitment strategies. These types of innovations are felt on campuses as well; with continued acceptance of hybrid models of learning.
The Side Effects of How Colleges and Universities Handle Innovation
As the technology to reach and engage students continues to expand, so do the commitment expectations of staff tasked with supporting them. Of course, technology is always intended to make things easier. Unfortunately, the pressure to continue past activities while incorporating the new is overwhelming and causes burnout for our teams.
The Great Resignation may have occurred in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the root cause for people wanting to leave the profession pre-dates COVID in many ways. For years institutions invested in new tools and platforms for their teams to use while also expecting them to perform all of the tasks they were doing prior to the addition of the new technology or process. When students started using college help sites to research schools, we didn’t stop going to college fairs. When we started texting updates to students, we didn’t stop sending emails. This problem was heightened post-COVID when institutions asked their staff to do all the recruitment activities they were doing pre-COVID plus the ones they added during COVID at the same levels.
No surprise, this was unsustainable and resulted in heavy turnover in the industry with more and more people considering leaving the profession.
Are You Encouraging Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting is a term growing in popularity to define the act of doing no more than the minimum expectation or contracted elements of a job. Rather than outright leaving, Quiet Quitting is sticking around but doing the bare minimum. Examples include logging off and refusing to answer work calls or emails after business hours. Opponents of this behavior say it is an indication of entitlement while proponents argue that it is within the right of the employee to do so and up to the employer to provide adequate resources and motivation to get more out of their employees. It is seen by many as employees finally prioritizing family and mental health over work.
Higher ed administrators in admissions and student affairs are amongst the most passionate, hard-working and dedicated professionals committed to student success.. I’ve witnessed Student Affairs teams be “asked to do more with less” every year since I started my career in higher education over a decade ago … and I’m sure it was the case a decade before.
Institutions have become reliant, for better or worse, on the intrinsic motivation of these teams to work extra hours, be responsive on nights and weekends, show up early, and leave late. This can no longer be the expectation. It’s time to start leveraging innovation to prioritize our team’s time and effort to maximize their effectiveness and produce better outcomes.
The pandemic and the Great Resignation have had a profound impact on the perception people have of the value of their work. More and more people are (rightfully) shifting their focus toward work/life balance and their needs above their employer. As a result, students will feel the impact if something isn’t done to better support and augment the staff tasked with helping them. It will become harder for institutions to rely on staff motivation to support students and passion for student success without also providing adequate resources and use of technology to better support the team.
It’s time to start helping the helpers.
Ways to Combat Quiet Quitting in Higher Education
The corporate world is struggling with Quiet Quitting because many employees are not bought into the vision of the company. This typically isn’t the case for higher education. Student affairs teams are among the most committed groups of workers in the world.
For higher education, the challenge is eliminating the things that cause teams to feel like they need to be on call 24/7 or are doing redundant work.
Rather than fold more technology into a team’s portfolio while expecting them to manage everything else the same, consider how technology and data can be used to truly boost efficiency, like:
Augment established alert systems meant to identify students who are at risk of not persisting (based on their class attendance or a predictive model) with earlier intervention opportunities. This will result in less students needing to be supported at a time when it may be too late to make an impact.
Prioritize outreach to identified students who need additional support based on their recent responses to scheduled weekly check-ins. Compared to a mass outreach effort, the number of students will be more manageable.
Celebrate successes by keeping an eye on what’s working. Replicate those efforts while removing redundancy. “This is the way we’ve always done it” cannot fly anymore.
It’s easy to say that the student voice and perspective is the most important when it comes to the community of higher education. However, it is also important to ensure that the people who are tasked with supporting students are doing so. Student affairs professionals cannot do their jobs well if they are not adequately resourced and prioritizing their time effectively.
By Gil Rogers
Head of Marketing at EdSights
Gil is a recognized leader in higher education enrollment management having served in leadership roles at the University of New Haven (CT) as well as Director of Enrollment Marketing at Chegg, Director of Marketing at NRCCUA (now Encoura) and most recently as Executive Vice President at PlatformQ Education.
Gil has conducted numerous research studies on student engagement published by Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education and presented at numerous regional and national conferences focused on student recruitment and engagement including the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), Ruffalo Noel Levitz National Conference, ACT Enrollment Planners Conference, TargetX Summit and more.