- Student affairs professionals don't tend to closely reflect the demographic makeup of the student body they support, according to a new report from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPAHR).
- For example, Hispanic students comprise 17% of the student body but just 8% of student affairs administrators, and while 6% of students are Asian just 3% of student affairs professionals are part of that demographic. The report notes these disparities are poised to grow, with 15% and 7% increases in the Hispanic and black student population, respectively, projected from 2016 through 2026. Black students are currently proportionally represented in student affairs.
- Women account for 71% of student affairs professionals, with 56% of top officers being women, a bigger share than overall administrative positions in higher ed. White men account for 20% of student affairs positions and 24% of students.
The report notes that while tight budgets are squeezing other areas of higher education, student affairs offices may be less of a target because they are responsible for key, sensitive issues such as Title IX compliance, student safety and diversity that are critical to attracting and retaining students.
One of those areas is mental health, where the report identifies a 10% increase in the number of counselors compared to a 7% rise in higher education student affairs positions generally. The increase is due in part to growing awareness around the issues spurring mental health concerns — including race, violence and sexual assault — as well as the fact that the students who need mental health services the most often don't access them. Among this cohort of student affairs professionals, roughly three-quarters are women (77%) and white (75%).
Meanwhile, research has found that African-American students are more likely to experience severe mental health issues but are less likely to seek mental health support.
The number of students seeking mental health services on campus grew by 30% to 40% between the 2009-10 and 2014-15 academic years, despite enrollment increasing by less than 6% for the period, according to a report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. Anxiety and depression remain the most common reasons for visits, but suicide attempts or consideration and nonsuicidal self-injury are increasing.
The CUPAHR report evaluates several other aspects of student affairs staffing, including pay equity for women and minorities. It found student affairs offices were "exemplary," particularly for leadership positions. It also notes the ratio of frontline employees in student affairs varies by institution size and classification. The ratio of frontline student affairs employees to students was 377:1 for associate degree institutions, 185:1 for bachelor's degree institutions, 247:1 for master's degree institutions and 375:1 for doctoral institutions.
Even considering concerns about diversity in these offices, the disparities are not as pronounced as they are among faculty members. Black faculty members as a share of total faculty (6%) were half that of black students as a percentage of the student body (12%) for the decade ending in 2016, The Hechinger Report found, while Hispanic faculty accounted for 5% of faculty and Hispanic students 16% of students during the period.