Hello from the other side….of the Admissions Desk: Consumer Orientation and Student Entitlement

 

‘This is it, I am done with this’ I thought as I stormed to my boss’ office. In my current position, I had left and was asked to return twice in eight years. I had thought about this for months as the writing on the wall spelled out my reality. There won’t be a third time – not after this. In that moment, my thinking became crystal clear. Whatever the future holds for me, it was not here – not now – not ever. This boss was that boss. The boss that, shall we say, lacked certain sanity markers that should have triggered some form of concern from higher-level management. As I walked down the hall to that office, I had decided several things: I would not be treated this way by anyone; I would not allow higher-level management to take advantage of my skill and offer no upward movement; and it doesn’t matter what it takes – I’m gone. As I rounded the corner to the door, I knew my life was about to change.

Student-side of the Admissions Desk
In 2003, I was accepted to UM-Flint. My first advising meeting seemed more of a checklist of things I needed to do to start, than a discussion on what I should do. It was my expectation that they would be able to assist me in determining which program was best for me and then assist me as I progressed through that program. I would meet each semester to review what I had done to date and confirm what to take next based on my desired program. I did not receive that. I received a schedule based more on what days I wanted to be on campus as opposed to the best courses. I had hoped for someone I could count on to assist me through this journey.

Advisor-side of the Admissions Desk
In 2008, I was hired at UM-Flint as a Student Services Administrative Assistant. As time moved along, I became an Advisor for a graduate program and met with several junior and senior undergraduates preparing to apply for graduate program in the health care field. I was shocked at the level of stress and uncertainty some students displayed; while others seemed certain that being accepted was a mere formality. The former group displayed what seemed to be a simple lack of understanding in the process and how they fit into it. The latter displayed an inclination to dismiss advising about process and were more interested in what the program and University could offer them as a student.

I can see that I wanted to be treated like a student, but was expecting to be treated like a customer. I asked ‘why wasn’t someone concerned about my success?’ I ultimately made it through. I didn’t hold onto the idea that I deserved special treatment or consideration long. I needed to reach my goal.

The Birth of the Student as a Consumer
Frank Spicuzza, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, penned an article for the National Academic Advising Association in 1992 titled ‘A Customer Service Approach to Advising: Theory and Application’. In this article, he discusses the customer service marketing model as an organizational strategy for advising in higher education. His six key ingredients to implementation are customer needs, employee attitude, administrative commitment, training and resources, recognition and evaluation. While these ingredients work well in the business sector, they fail to account for the learning environment. This brings in the old adage that the customer is always right, which leads learning institutions to put more weight on student satisfaction surveys than should be.   Dialogue at the academic level does not seek to provide what the customer wants, more what the student needs. In the ever-present need for colleges and universities to increase enrollment and retention with less and less resources, it seems that colleges and universities’ legitimacy is being called into question based on student satisfaction. The introduction of this model might have driven the student population more toward consumerism than academic accomplishment.

Student Entitlement
After being on the other side of the desk, I am seeing an increase in this idea that simply because a student participates – they believe they are entitled to not only a passing grade but a exemplary grade. When did this consumer orientation and student entitlement take hold?  Cynthia Nordstrom and colleagues in their article ‘Predicting and Curbing Classroom Incivility in Higher Education’ lamented that students often believe knowledge should be acquired with a minimum of effort on their part. In this, faculty take on a large responsibility for student learning.

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Times Higher Education wrote about this very topic in their weekly magazine based out of London. This article clearly explains from the academic side of the argument and the downfalls of this burgeoning perception among students and the public at large. From the inception of governmental consumer-oriented charters launched in the 90s that promoted and encouraged the complaining consumer hero, we now see the outcome of the affirmation of students’ complaints leads some students to believe that because they paid for their education, they are entitled to demand satisfaction and a decent grade. We are now seeing a trend toward students’ complaints regarding the marks they receive. Its low-hanging fruit to a student and seen as a way to get the most for their money.

Why is not the issue at this point.  How is a better word.  How do we change this?  How do we maintain the teacher/student relationship to ensure that students are getting properly educated?  There is a need for more research on this phenomenon.

 

 

Ausbrooks, Angela R., Sally Hill Jones, and Mary S. Tijerina. “Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Faculty and Student Perceptions of Classroom Incivility in a Social Work Program.” Advances in Social Work 12.2 (2001): 255-275. 2001. Web. 6 Mar. 2016.

Spicuzza, Frank J. “A Customer Service Approach to Advising: Theory and Application.” A Customer Service Approach to Advising: Theory and Application 12.2 (1992): 49-58. Nacada.ksu.edu. 1992. Web. 6 Mar. 2016.

“Now Is the Age of the Discontented.” Times Higher Education (THE). N.p., 03 June 2009. Web. 06 Mar. 2016.

 

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