April 1st, 2008

Looking at Students as Future Donors


Fairly early in my editorship of The Teaching Professor, we published an article that drew some comparisons between students and customers. Never before and not since has a piece generated the response that one did. Education is not a product. Students may pay tuition but that money doesn’t buy grades. With education the customer cannot always be right. The notes just kept coming and coming.

I’m not sure I want to go down that road again, but I do want to share a quote from an article that wonders how our institutions would operate if we looked at our students as future donors. “How would your institution have to change if it thought of its students as future donors? Would it simper, bow, and scrape before entering classes? Would it roll out the red carpet and declare every confused utterance the students produced a brilliant insight, every sloppy project a work of genius, every stand the students couldn’t reach on first try unreasonable? Or would your institutions have to embrace more fundamental changes? Would it have to put faculty in small first-year classes? Would it have to provide students with close and sustained contact with challenging teachers, ideas, and experiences? Would it have to alter the modes of instructional presentation and assessment, the organization of class times during the week, access to labs, libraries and support services?” (pp. 376-377)

It’s such an intriguing question and not all that far-fetched if you consider (as this author does) the precipitous declines in state and federal funding for higher education. How much higher can tuition prices rise?

Reference: Miller, R. E. (2004). Our future donors. College English, 66, 365-379.

–Maryellen Weimer