Transforming Colleges and Universities for the Future

June 17, 2024

illustration of college auditorium class


Higher education remains one of the best ways to advance socioeconomic mobility, uncover new discoveries that have real-world impact, and increase individual self-confidence. And while we often credit these transformations to faculty, an unsung hero of colleges and universities are higher education administrators. From admissions to student affairs to financial and institutional planning, these professionals from diverse backgrounds create seamless experiences for students, faculty, and staff alike. 

Shares Dr. Deniece Dortch, assistant professor of higher education administration at the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, “We help people feel like they’re a part of this community, that this community was designed and set up for them.” And that, above anything else, has the ability to positively shift university climate, policies, and engagement. 

Here are three ways that higher education administrators are transforming colleges and universities for the future:

Setting the Culture

illustration of higher ed leader saying hi to students, all answering "hello" in different languages

Higher education administrators are often the first line of contact for new or transferring students. These initial interactions require understanding where students are coming from, what their needs are, and communicating accordingly to faculty and other staff. In some scenarios, administrators gain a deeper understanding of a student’s needs and can meet them where they are and address those issues in real-time. The way these interactions are handled set the tone for these incoming students and leave lasting impressions. 

Additionally, higher education leaders can initiate and lead cross-collaborative efforts. Rather than accepting siloed departments which are often the case within higher ed, administrators can facilitate the creation of interdisciplinary teams who can generate real-time insights and make new forecasts that positively impact the collegial climate. Working in this holistic, integrated fashion sets the stage for improved experiences for the campus community while positively shifting the atmosphere and culture for all involved.

Eliminating Barriers

illustration of one student balanced on each side of scale of justice, one with laptop, the other sitting on books

Higher education administrators can lead the charge in creating equitable policies that eliminate barriers to student and faculty success. For example, they can lead task forces that review all existing policies to examine them from an equity lens. These could address roadblocks to graduation, registration challenges that lead to drop outs, or lack of support once a student matriculates into a program.

Higher education leadership also has the ability to introduce data-based decision-making into the equation. This could entail creating systems that trigger warnings when students are struggling academically; flagging courses that have outsized dropout, withdrawal or failure rates; or identifying students who have ignored prompts for financial aid support maintenance. Being able to use data to identify when interventions are needed make it possible for university administrators to step in and turn the tide. In turn, students and faculty gain the support they need to make the necessary changes and sustain a positive experience.

Creating Systems of Support

illustration of student meeting with advisor

Student belonging has become a major point of discussion in recent years, and for good reason. Belonging and social integration drive student success, motivation, self-efficacy, self-worth, and overall mental well-being. Higher education managers are instrumental in making this happen. But it’s not just students that benefit from systems of support — faculty and staff do, too. 

Thanks to their work in creating a positive, collaborative culture and inclusive campus experience, administrators are able to support student, faculty, and staff retention efforts. For example, pairing a student with a dedicated advisor whose interests and cultural backgrounds align help both feel validated, represented, and seen. Facilitating opportunities for civic engagement makes it possible for all constituencies to feel as though they are making a meaningful difference in their community. Identifying technology that creates space for students with diverse needs to learn in the ways that make sense for them promotes academic success while supporting instructive efforts. And of course, driving diversity and inclusion efforts create equitable experiences.

Colleges and universities benefit when they have leaders who integrate social support with evidence-based practices and ideological innovation to shift higher education policy. Learn more about how you can be among those transforming higher education institutions for the future with an advanced degree in higher education administration. Through a combination of innovative coursework and professional practice, students become prepared to ascend in leadership and decision-making roles for administrative, academic, and research positions in diverse educational settings. Reach out to an admissions coach today to get started!