The Chronicle of Higher Education
To the Editor:
I would like to praise your article, “Meet Higher Education’s Newest Players: ‘Education Sherpas’” (The Chronicle, August 16), for pointing to the positive impact of providing non-academic student support to help learners navigate the complexities of the educational process. As the leading organization of student-support professionals, NASPA has long recognized the critical importance of offering students professional, non-academic support to help them define their long-term goals and develop a plan for achieving them.
It’s not that the concept of educational sherpas is new. Rather, the shifting demographics of today’s student population are fueling a new urgency behind the push to create networks of human capital devoted to student support. Today, more than 85 percent of undergraduates (approximately 15 million students) are post-traditional learners (i.e., adult learners, working adults, low-income students, commuters, and parents). What’s more, research has shown that the most prevalent reasons that students leave their institutions are non-academic challenges related to balancing work, family and other commitments or finding a sense of connection to the school community. The challenge for higher-education leaders is that the same students enrolling today at the highest rates — first-generation, low-income, and working adult students—are precisely those most likely to lack personal connections to others who have successfully completed post-secondary education.