Considering the limited resources institutions have at their disposal, and the fact that student populations are continuing to grow and diversify, student affairs divisions are reckoning with an uncomfortable realization: they can no longer be "all things to all people." Instead of continuing to expand and attempting to adapt in all directions, smart institutions are thinking about how to carve out a niche for themselves and specialize in how they serve students, or for which student populations they will develop more dedicated services.
How to identify which students need more dedicated services—without an army of advisors
This is no easy task as we, of course, want to serve all of our students to the best of our ability, and there are complex questions—both financial and ethical—about which specific student populations we choose to serve. However, these are decisions institutions must make in order to remain sustainable in the years ahead.
Case Study: The University of Arkansas
About five years ago, Arkansas decided to develop themselves into a destination for veterans, and has made many changes and investments to that end. They have hired more dedicated staff, increased funding, developed mentorship programming, and put key support services in place. They want to be the institution that veterans want to come to and have aligned their resources to support that goal.
Arkansas leveraged the widespread state support for veterans established by the Governor's Yellow Ribbon Taskforce in order to form their own. The taskforce evaluated how the institution was already serving veterans, and produced a 10-point plan to develop and improve their veteran's services.
The university's goal was not just to increase veteran enrollments, but to carve out a special value proposition, determining where student affairs could best serve them. The institution decided it could do this through targeted academic programs and career preparation and support. Arkansas aims to recruit veterans into discipline-specific majors with built-in local internships and job opportunities. With Walmart and a number of other large companies headquartered nearby, the university works hard to connect veterans with these Fortune 500 companies.
Key Differentiating Services
- Increased staffing: Arkansas has grown from one FTE to 3.5 FTE dedicated to serving veterans at the institution.
- Dedicated space: Arkansas has established three offices dedicated to serving veterans and is in the process of adding a dedicated Veterans Center in the Student Union.
- Access to careers: Arkansas features connections with businesses and offers a mentorship program for veterans.