Students have always sought out non-academic support while attending college. Usually, this involves help with financial aid, career planning, or just a bit of casual guidance. In recent years, the demand for non-academic support in higher education has increased as college students face an ever-changing landscape of uncertainty and challenges.
That’s right—it’s not enough to have a roster of top professors. As higher education adjusts to serve the needs of the modern student, institutions must ensure that they are providing an adequate, if not superior, level of non-academic support.
One of the most important areas of non-academic support is financial aid. According to a recent study from Sallie Mae, the majority of college students rely on loans to pay for their higher education. Additionally, many students are overwhelmed by the complexity of financial aid and the lack of clarity in the process.
To better serve students’ needs in this area, institutions should provide clear, comprehensive information about the financial aid process and have knowledgeable non-academic staff that can answer questions and provide guidance.
Technology has provided a few key solutions when it comes to financial aid clarity. For example, Net Price Calculators (NPCs) were mandated by the US Department of Education back in 2011. Some universities have gone above and beyond to provide students with a tailored cost of attendance estimates thanks to personalized NPCs.
Another important area of non-academic support is career development, as most students are focused on their careers post-graduation even while in school. According to an article from Inside Higher Ed, students need more than just a degree to succeed in the job market.
They also need guidance and advice on how to find and apply for jobs, as well as how to network and build relationships with potential employers. Colleges and universities should provide career counselors and offer workshops on job search strategies and interview preparation. Many do this through student success centers.
Specifically, student success centers and their staff should seek to find professionals who understand what the modern workforce looks like and, in particular, what students at their institution are likely to focus on. Some universities focus on STEM, while others instead zero in on liberal arts. Regardless of the focus, an institution’s career development program should be as specific to these fields as possible.
Mental & Emotional Support
Mental health has been one of the biggest buzzwords of the 21st century, and students are taking it seriously. It’s more important than ever before for higher education institutions to provide emotional support for students.
According to the same article from Inside Higher Ed, many students are struggling with mental health issues, anxiety, and depression. To meet the needs of these students, colleges and universities should provide mental health counselors and support groups. Additionally, faculty and staff should be trained to recognize signs of distress in students and refer them to appropriate resources.
Once more, the most robust mental health caregivers will have a background in specialized support for specific students. That means that institutions shouldn’t simply onboard a counselor, but have multiple professionals available to address specific student issues.
A Push for Soft Skills
Many students today expect their school to help them develop soft skills. By taking things like financial aid, mental and emotional support, and career development seriously, colleges and universities can also instill these types of soft skills into their students, including emotional intelligence and work ethic.
To do this, higher education institutions should provide comprehensive financial aid assistance, career development services and centers, and emotional support. By providing these services, colleges and universities can ensure that students are properly equipped to succeed during their college experience. Which will also help them succeed after graduation.