WHAT THE PUBLIC EXPECTS OF YOUR INSTITUTION
By a large majority, American adults believe that the primary role of a college education is to prepare undergraduate students for a career. However, nearly two thirds also say that preparing adults for better jobs, preparing future leaders for our society and preparing students to be responsible citizens are very important roles of colleges and universities. This according to the national poll conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education in conjunction with GDA Integrated Services.
The least important roles for colleges were playing athletics for the entertainment of the community, improving the image of the state in which the university is located, and promoting international understanding by encouraging students to study in other countries.
About six out of ten felt it very important that colleges and universities help elementary and high schools do a better job teaching children (63%), teach students to get along with people from different backgrounds (59%), teach students how to cope with a rapidly changing world (59%), help students develop good values and ethical positions (58%), prepare undergraduate students for graduate and professional school (57%), and discover more about the world through research (56%).
Observations and Recommendations
The American public has great expectations of colleges and universities. Your institution can use these expectations to make your case to the public as well as important admissions, development, and other advancement audiences. Answer the following questions with data and examples from your institution. See that the news media, parents of prospective students, potential donors and public officials know your strength in these areas.
- How does your college prepare students for careers? What evidence do you have of their success? Which of your programs are most distinctive for enhancing career success among graduates?
- What does your college or university do to develop the leadership capacities of students? Do you measure leadership development among students? If so what results can you provide media or use in your own communications? Also, describe programs that are specifically focused on developing leadership.
- Leadership carries with it the imperative of responsibility. How does your institution nurture responsibility among students? Is there an honor code? Is ethics a component of your core curriculum? How do the philosophy and practice of student government relate to the mission of the university? What examples do you have of responsible group action among students? Community service projects, now so routine as to attract little attention, provide many examples of students demonstrating responsibility.
- Improving the quality of preK-12 education is very important to the public. What partnerships exist between your university or college and public schools? What features make those partnerships distinctive? Do you, for example, provide free graduate tuition to teachers or your education alumni who are working in poorly funded schools? What evidence do you have that your long-term partnerships are making a difference to the schools involved?
- Though the liberal arts per se was not deemed an important role for colleges by those surveyed, the outcomes of the liberal arts are important to the public, although they do not know it. You must tell them. In your communications, describe what you believe is the relationship between the liberal arts and the preparation of students for successful careers and roles as responsible leaders and give examples of how your institution makes these linkages through programs.
- American adults do not see the development of international perspectives among students as a key role for colleges and universities. Yet virtually every institution has made commitments to internationalize its curriculum and related experiential programs for students. The disconnect between public opinion and the imperative felt by colleges and universities provides an excellent opportunity for presidents and others to write and place op-eds about why international education is important to the success of American society. The timing, given the tensions in America’s current relations with the world community, has never been better.
GDAIS through its experienced team of public relations professionals can provide assistance in putting the data in the Chronicle survey to work in helping your college achieve enrollment, development, and communications goals.
For more ways to take advantage of the Chronicle research, Email us.
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