The responsibility to be genuinely student-centered rests not just on the university, but also on the broader community. However, since the university has agreed to educate the student, it is especially important for the institution to define and fulfill the student-centered promise. As I’ve previously mentioned, there are an increasing number of predatory institutions that advertise themselves as student-centered; but their graduation rates are below 30%, and they do not ensure incoming students are academically and financially prepared to take college level courses. So how do we avoid sending prospective students to colleges that do not have their best academic and financial interests at heart? How do we determine if a university is truly “student-centered”?
One of the best ways to determine the university’s integrity is to focus on the students’ level of preparedness and progress. Perhaps such simple and direct questions could be asked by the students, parents, faculty, advisers, community, and university, for assessing the true worth of a university’s student-centered promise:
- Is the student learning?
- What is the student learning?
- How is the student learning?
- How is the student economically applying what is being taught?
- Are the student’s academic and professional needs being met by the program?
- Is the student receiving help preparing to apply the program’s lessons and content for their future? How will the student employ what is being taught, and how long will that take?
- Does the student know how much the program costs in tuition charges and fees?
- How is the student affording the program? Does the student understand the costs of student loans?
- Is the student taking on debt to attend the program? If so, how much debt and does the student have a plan for relieving the debt quickly?
- Is the student paying more than the initial cost of the program? Is the student accruing additional tuition charges via failed and/or re-attempted courses?
Such questions get to the heart of the matter and aim to protect our students from predatory institutions that couldn’t care less about their best interests. In the end, the students are on the line for the debt accrued during and after the degree program, so it is in our best interests to ensure our children and neighbors are not encumbered post-graduation.