Press Release

AFT Releases Report Calling for More Collaboration To Improve College Student Success

For Release: 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Contact:

Janet Bass
202-879-4554
jbass@aft.org

WASHINGTON—To increase student success in higher education, there must be greater opportunities for collaboration between university and college faculty and staff, and their institution’s administrators and other key stakeholders, according to a report released today by the American Federation of Teachers.

The report, “Student Success in Higher Education,” which has been in process for two years, takes on additional urgency given the political environment in which many Republican governors are attempting to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees, including public university faculty and staff.

“Faculty and staff need a voice in their workplaces to help strengthen their institutions and the education they provide, whether it’s through collective bargaining or other avenues,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said.

The report encourages higher education institutions to bring the voice of frontline faculty and staff into policymaking—particularly on curriculum and assessments—to ensure that ideas work as well in the classroom as they appear to work on paper. Too often, the report said, campus policies and public debate on student success have been heavily focused on standardization of curriculum and assessment and on unacceptably flawed graduation-rate formulas.

The report outlines a number of key factors to determine college student success, recommends ways to create effective programs, and outlines the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in creating the conditions for students to succeed. The publication is based on extensive outreach with AFT higher education members and education policymakers, as well as a on series of focus groups among higher-risk first- and second-year college students that are documented in the companion report, “Exploring Student Attitudes, Aspirations and Barriers to Success.”

“We must do a better job of understanding what happens to students after they enter college, and of making sure they achieve their educational goals—whether that means a degree or certificate, job training, or personal enrichment,” Weingarten said. “Faculty are the people closest to the students, and they need to be at the table when policies and programs are developed.”

This is just the beginning of the AFT’s push to increase collaboration between frontline educators and policymakers, said AFT Vice President Sandra Schroeder, who has worked as a part-time and tenured professor of English at Seattle Central Community College. “The nation’s college faculty and staff demonstrate a high level of personal and professional commitment to making a difference in the lives of their students,” said Schroeder. “Our students’ success is our success, and we look forward to collaborating with other stakeholders for the common good—the good of our profession, our institutions and the people we teach.”

The “Student Success” report lays out a blueprint that:

  • Suggests an approach to student success in broader terms—based on student educational goals rather than solely on degrees and certificates.
  • Calls on institutions, led by faculty and staff, to examine academic programs on the basis of what students say they need—greater clarity in the curriculum, stronger connection between coursework and student goals, a mix of academic and practical knowledge, and more counseling and advising.
  • Outlines an approach that supports efforts across various programs and disciplines on campus to strengthen learning.
  • Calls on all stakeholders to promote more public investment in public higher education, more financial aid to students and a strong academic staffing system that supports good instruction.

To download both reports, visit www.aft.org/yourwork/highered/studentsuccess.cfm.