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Post-Pandemic Higher Education: Where Are the Challenges and the Opportunities?

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter

In the keynote presentation of the 2022 NASFAA Virtual Conference on Tuesday, attendees heard firsthand about how what were once thought to be short-term impacts of the pandemic have resulted in unprecedented change to the higher education sector.

Dr. Kevin Kruger, CEO of NASPA, walked NASFAA members through the potential barriers and new possibilities for the future of student affairs that are beginning to emerge in the wake of the pandemic.

Despite the many challenges campuses may face in attempting to rebound from recent enrollment declines, Kruger said other trends have led the majority of college presidents to hold optimistic views of their institution’s financial stability in the next five to 10 years, and that those perceptions have been buoyed by recent federal aid.

On the legislative landscape, Kruger detailed how state legislatures have begun to influence curricula, how those trends are likely to affect course offerings and administrative initiatives, and how perceptions of an impending recession could alter the financial landscape of higher education.

The interactive presentation also delved into the implications of the labor shortage and how it affects both campus operations and the options available to prospective students who may be more drawn to the workforce than enrolling in higher education.

Kruger also provided a detailed analysis of issues surrounding student equity and how higher education professionals can go about helping students succeed through personal contact, mentoring, and proactive advising initiatives.

According to Kruger, the future of student affairs will be linked to student success rather than crisis management, as it had been in responding to the pandemic. His talk provided participants with tangible ways in which campuses can promote student engagement that will foster future enrollment.

During the opening session NASFAA President Justin Draeger also joined to welcome guests and highlight the “NASFAA Gives Back” initiative and how it will provide additional support for members as they continue to navigate the ever-changing landscape of higher education to ensure that students are best served in their academic careers.

“We know that aid offices are strapped for resources, facing unstable enrollments, unpredictable enrollments, staffing shortages, and turnover — all while we are facing some of the biggest changes in Federal Methodology that are looming on the horizon,” Draeger said. “Thanks in large part to our membership continuity and our retention rates, we are emerging at NASFAA in a position where we can give back.”

Draeger also highlighted the unique content that would be provided to members throughout the week and then handed things off to Vanderbilt University's Director of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships Brent Tener, who served as the 2021-22 NASFAA national chair, to award the NASFAA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lisanne Masterson, who prior to her recent retirement served as the director of financial aid at Blue Ridge Community College, was presented with the honor and in her remarks offered guidance to financial aid professionals looking to advance their careers and help students succeed.

Masterson urged those in the financial aid field to invest in education and training opportunities, connect with members and build professional relationships, learn to be proactive  and be in the know for what’s happening legislatively, and to get involved in state associations.

“In my life I have met, worked with, or presented with so many of you and it is those encounters that have enriched my life, personally as well as professionally,” Masterson said. “So for that I want to say thank you.”

You can still register for the 2022 Virtual Conference through Friday, July 15. For the cost of just $250, everyone on your NASFAA roster can participate, and have access to session recordings for one year. Stay tuned for highlights from the conference this week!

 

Publication Date: 7/13/2022


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