Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career

Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
Download by: [University of Arizona] Date: 07 January 2016, At: 04:28
Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice
ISSN: 1949-6591 (Print) 1949-6605 (Online) Journal homepage:
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career
Student Affairs Professionals
Jenny J. Lee & Matthew Helm
To cite this article: Jenny J. Lee & Matthew Helm (2013) Student Affairs Capitalism and EarlyCareer Student Affairs Professionals, Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 50:3,
To link to this article:
Published online: 22 Aug 2013.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 91
View related articles
Student Affairs
Capitalism and EarlyCareer Student Affairs
Jenny J. Lee, University of Arizona
Matthew Helm, Michigan State University
Lee, J. L., & Helm, M. (2013).
Student affairs capitalism and early-career student affairs professionals.
Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 50(3), 290–307.
Available at
Innovations in Research and Scholarship Feature
Jenny J. Lee, Associate Professor, Center for the Study of Higher Education. Matthew Helm, Director, Graduate Student Life &
Wellness, Michigan State University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lee at [email protected].
This study explores student affairs capitalism as the alteration of professional practice towards the financial interests of institutions. Student affairs capitalism has the
potential to create dynamics in which the interests of students become secondary
to the institution’s economic needs. This study examined this phenomenon from
the perspectives of early-career student affairs professionals with particular focus
on possible professional tensions. Findings have implications for student services,
student affairs preparation programs, and student affairs professional associations.
Every college and university in the United States seems to be affected by the current economic downturn. In response to financial shortfalls throughout history, universities have adjusted
to changes in national and state higher education financing patterns by seeking out new sources
of financial support and reallocating internal resources to academic units thought to be revenue
producers for improved market competition (Schrecker, 2011). This entrepreneurial turn towards
increased “academic capitalism,” can be understood as, “emphasizing the utility of higher educaJSARP 2013, 50(3) © NASPA 2013 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
JSARP 2013, 50(3) © NASPA 2013 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 291
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
tion to national economic activity on the part of the faculty and institutions” (Slaughter & Leslie,
1997, p. 33).
While academic capitalism manifests itself as universities engage with the market, entrepreneurial pressures and activities may also be reorienting the student affairs sector. Addressing and maintaining the wide variety of student programs and services offered while seeking to
develop students holistically is a particular challenge for student affairs, a significant division
of higher education. This entrepreneurial trend becomes inherently problematic in many ways
in that the values underlying academic capitalism (i.e., revenue generation, commodification
of programs, efficiency) may be in direct opposition to student affairs professional ideals (Hirt,
2007). NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) includes “access,
affordability, collaboration, cooperation, diversity, fellowship, fiscal responsibility, integrity,
learning, responsiveness, service, spirit of inquiry, and sustainability” (NASPA, 2013, Common
Core Values, para. 17) as common student affairs values. The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) indicates “professional responsibility and competence, student learning and development, responsibility to the institution, and responsibility to society” (ACPA, 2013, “Ethical
Foundations,” para.1) as core to its ethical foundations. NASPA and ACPA, along with 39 other
associations, are members of the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), which has formulated a common set of curricular benchmarks based on 14 criteria,
referred to as “the general standards” (CAS, 2012). These standards include a range of student
learning outcomes: “intellectual growth, effective communication, enhanced self-esteem, realistic self-appraisal, clarified values, career choices, leadership development, healthy behavior,
meaningful interpersonal relationships, independence, collaboration, social responsibility, satisfying and productive lifestyles, appreciating diversity, spiritual awareness, and personal and
educational goals” (CAS, 2012, Contextual Statement, para. 2). Together, these qualities constitute the foundational values for student affairs and the shared learning goals in preparing future
student affairs professionals.
Although these ideals have reached considerable consensus within student affairs, this article suggests that student affairs profession is not adequately addressing the economic realities
in many higher education settings. Despite the financial downturn since 2008, this concern is not
new. Former NASPA President (1989–1990) Dudley Woodard warned that as student affairs professionals, “we are moving perilously close to swapping our core values for marketplace values as a
way to protect our interests as a profession” (Woodard & DeArmond, 1998, p. 17). Student affairs
professional ideologies and that of capitalism may cause tensions in that each may have different
premises but are concurrently required in some university activities.
Ideological conflicts might be especially challenging for early-career professionals. These
new student affairs professionals tend to enter the field because of direct experiences and benefits
gained during the college years (Fennell, 2010; Taub & McEwen, 2006). Often, new professionals
hope to make a positive difference for students (Taub & McEwen, 2006), but are prone to becomDownloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
292 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 © NASPA 2013 JSARP 2013, 50(3)
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
ing disenchanted in the day-to-day requirements of their work (Lorden, 1998). Several researchers
have examined a possible “student affairs attrition crisis,” evidenced by the high turnover rate that
threatens the viability of student affairs (Lorden, 1998, p. 207), with particular concern among new
student affairs professionals (Tull, 2006). Rosser and Javinar (2003) found that as the number of
years student affairs leaders worked in the profession increased, a corresponding decline on their
optimism and sense of common purpose occurred. For these reasons, we focused on early-career
professionals in our investigation.
We introduce the notion of student affairs capitalism as an extension of academic capitalism. Whereas academic capitalism originally focused on the privatization of faculty research activities and knowledge production (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004), we define
student affairs capitalism as the reorientation of student affairs professional practice towards the
financial interests of institutions. This market effect has the potential to create dynamics in which
the student affairs profession’s interests, values, and ethics and that of students become secondary
to the economic interests of the institution. The relationship of student affairs professionals to
students could thereby become commodified, with students viewed and treated with commercial,
rather than educational or developmental, benefits to the institution. With the preceding concerns
in mind, this study focused on the following questions: How do early-career student affairs professionals experience student affairs capitalism? What are the professional tensions between student
affairs values and capitalism?
Resource Dependency
Entrepreneurial behaviors are closely linked to resource dependency. Resource dependency
theory suggests that as public funds for higher education constrict, institutions will compete for
more competitively based private funds (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997). Resource dependency theory
also emphasizes the powerful influence of external agents. Policy makers and external funding
constituencies exert considerable and sometimes competing pressures on higher education institutions, thereby changing the very nature of such organizations from being internally driven to
others-directed (Pheffer & Salancik, 1978; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004)
While resource dependency theory emphasizes the power of external agents, internal agents
further perpetuate capitalistic behaviors. Slaughter and Rhoades (2004) reported universities prioritizing their financial and economic goals over student learning. Those whom Rhoades (1998) has
called managerial professionals, which includes student affairs professionals, experience and apply
the same sort of entrepreneurial pressures that academic professionals are experiencing in terms of
the commodification of research and education. The movement toward alignment with the market
requires the collective action of the university as a whole, altering beliefs and values along the way
and ultimately creating tension and dissonance for many of those working in the institution and
student affairs profession.
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
JSARP 2013, 50(3) © NASPA 2013 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 293
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
Through the process of professionalization, each profession seeks to regulate its area of expertise and authority and create conditions that must be met before entry into the profession is
permitted. In addition to being able to make educated decisions, expert knowledge and skills are
highly valued in the market. Some professions have undergone decades of codifying their practices
(e.g., law, medicine, and engineering), while others are newer to these activities (e.g., teaching, social work, and student affairs). The codification of theory and practice is essential in the professional socialization process.
Higher education serves as the training ground through which students are given mediated
entry into professions and by which they gain marketable skills. This notion of expert professionalism has evolved into the dominant paradigm with professional “intellectual training in the service
of purposes determined by organizational authorities or market forces” (Woodard & DeArmond,
1998, p. 7), which also leaves professionals being “defined as much by their organizational ability
and political power as their expertise” (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997, p. 4). Relatively new and emerging
professions are then especially vulnerable to a range of political and market influences in their early
Found within the development and evolution of professions is the development of student
affairs. Some scholars have suggested that student affairs is in the dynamic process of professionalization (Winston, Creamer, & Miller, 2001) or is currently an established profession (Carpenter
& Stimpson, 2007). Others assert that the student affairs field lacks a guiding framework, which
makes professionalization difficult. Bloland, Stamatakos, and Rogers (1994) have argued that there
is no one unifying theory but “an eclectic mélange of concepts without theory” (p. 35) and warned
that student affairs’ limited focus on students’ personal development neglects the university’s core
mission and students’ intellectual development. One can further argue that some professions exist
within the larger occupational category of student affairs (i.e., counseling) but that other jobs are
not held to the same professional licensure (i.e., orientation programming). Such nuances make
forming clear consensus on the intended goals of student affairs difficult, particularly in the context of a larger environment with additional or even competing missions. Student affairs, whether
a profession or occupational category consisting of multiple professions, is still evolving its leadership, guiding values, and practices in order to adapt and to meet constituents’ needs. Market
interests continue to share student affairs practice and ideology; the extent to which this influence
occurs warrants further examination.
Capitalism in Student Affairs
Market-oriented values in the public sector have the potential to change the very core foundations of student affairs. Access to public services may be determined then by access to private
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
294 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 © NASPA 2013 JSARP 2013, 50(3)
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
financial resources. In public higher education, administrators and faculty increasingly have had
to compete for diminishing resources and become more entrepreneurial in their behaviors.
Such a trend is evident in student affairs practices. Student affairs units align with the market by outsourcing contracts for critical services as well as striving to become resource-generating
departments (Ryan, 2003). Outsourcing is a process of detailing the in-house functions of a particular unit and then offering them as requests for proposals to firms external to the university. Professionals working in units funded by student fees (e.g., housing, student unions) are increasingly
contributing more of their revenues to the institution. Meanwhile, decreasing university appropriations have led professionals away from educating, counseling, and supporting students and
towards entrepreneurial practices. Many student affairs units have become cost centers (Slaughter
& Rhoades, 2004). For example, writing centers may offer individualized tutoring services for additional fees, which are then used as the primary financial support to sustain the operations of the
overall writing center. All of these examples can be construed as student affairs capitalism.
The pressure to generate external funds has historically fallen largely to student affairs vice
presidents, dean of students, and middle managers (Jackson, 2000). This responsibility is increasingly becoming a regular job requirement for all student affairs professionals (Jackson, 2000). This
tendency suggests a paradigm shift across all levels of student affairs from student development
and education toward capitalism.
This entrepreneurial emphasis may be especially problematic for early-career professionals.
Early-career professionals tend to be more versed in college student development theory and may
enter into student affairs because their values are congruent with student learning (Hunter, 1992).
They also may enter positions unprepared for the fiscal demands of their workplaces. Kretovics
(2002) found that in the interview process, evaluating candidate knowledge of budgeting, finance,
and assessment may be completely absent in hiring decisions. For many newly hired student affairs professionals, this unexpected movement towards the market might cause considerable value
Our research sought to explore student affairs capitalism and its possible tensions from the
perspective of early-career professionals using a phenomenological approach (Van Manen, 1990). As
a phenomenological study seeks to examine shared experiences and meanings, interviews served as
our primary data source (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
This study examined the experiences of early-career professionals from four student affairs
programs and university settings: Southwestern University, Pacific State University, Mountain
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
JSARP 2013, 50(3) © NASPA 2013 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 295
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
View State University, and Sunnyside State University (all names are pseudonyms). The selected
institutions are large public universities located in the Western and Southwestern regions of the
United States; two are doctoral degree-granting and two are master’s degree-granting institutions.
Each of the student affairs programs: (1) has reported that it meets the CAS either in its website or
indicated when a program faculty member was asked; (2) is listed as a student affairs preparation
program by ACPA (2012); and (3) includes at least one faculty member whose professional background is or was in student affairs with membership in ACPA and/or NASPA. The selected student
affairs programs provide master’s degrees with curricula designed for individuals who desire training for entry-level student affairs positions as well as for those professionals who are already working in the field and desire to increase their knowledge base.
This study employed purposeful sampling (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) to identify new student
affairs professionals in four student affairs/higher education programs. This sampling procedure
intentionally included individuals who were selected to provide information that was not readily
available from alternative sources (Maxwell, 1996). In selecting the early-career professionals to be
interviewed, we used purposeful maximum variety sampling (Miles & Huberman, 1994) to capture a heterogeneous, diverse sample from different types of institutions and demographic backgrounds from each site, in keeping with phenomenological methodology (Van Manen, 1990).
The participants were early-career professionals who worked in student affairs (both fulland part-time) while enrolled in student affairs/higher education graduate programs. In this study,
we define early-career professionals as those who have worked in student affairs for 5 years or less.
We chose to use this time frame for three reasons. First, studies on student affairs attrition suggested that as many as 68% of new practitioners will leave the field within 5 or 6 years after beginning their careers. The reasons for departure included cognitive dissonance, a lack of systematic
evaluation, and a lack of upward mobility (Burns, 1982; Holmes, Verrier, & Chilsolm, 1983). Second,
many early-career professionals are engaged in professional and organization socialization and are
just beginning to make sense of their experience, making it a rich timeframe for exploration (Tull,
2006). Finally, we focused on early-career professionals while in student affairs graduate programs
to explore potential dissonance between classroom learning and their student affairs work (Lorden, 1988).
Thirty early-career professionals were drawn from four sites. Drawing our sample from multiple sites allowed us to make claims about a larger group of people, environments, or processes
than using a single site (Miles & Huberman, 1994). In addition, we purposely included subjects
who worked in auxiliary student affairs units, hypothesizing that their professional experiences
may differ from those of nonauxiliary professionals. Unlike traditional student affairs departments that receive state funds, auxiliary units generate most, if not all, of their operating costs
through the sale of a product or service and are financially self-sustaining. While such “business
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
296 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 © NASPA 2013 JSARP 2013, 50(3)
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
strategies” have not always existed in early student affairs practice, they appear to be increasing as
ways to subsidize university operations, improve service quality to students, and remain competitive (Ryan, 2003). The auxiliary units in this study included the Student Union, Orientation, and
Residence Life. In each of the four student affairs programs studied approximately eight individuals were selected, half of whom worked in auxiliary units.
Among the 30 interviewees, eight were from Southwest University, eight from Pacific State,
six from Sunnyside University, and eight from Mountain View. The departments that were represented were as follows: Admissions, Academic Advising, Academic Colleges, Residence Life, Campus Life, Student Programs, and Student Union. Participant departments located within the Student Union included: Greek Life, Student Programs, Commuter Affairs, Operations, Scholarship
Office, and Student Union Administration. The sample consisted of 22 women and eight men.
There were 22 Caucasians, three African/African Americans, two Asian Americans, two Latino/as,
and one Native American. Twenty-four worked part-time, and six worked full-time. Three were
first-generation college students.
The interview questions sought information on the participants’ personal and educational
backgrounds, perceived workplace values and expectations, perceived academic program values
and expectations, and assigned work duties. Additional questions focused on the research questions about professional/workplace tensions and the role of entrepreneurialism in participants’
work. Sample interview protocol questions included: “What do you believe are the values being
promoted of your graduate program? In your workplace?” and “To what extent is generating revenue or seeking outside resources a part of your current work?” Upon human subjects approval,
data were collected utilizing an intentional interviewing approach (Ivey, 1994). Techniques such as
paraphrasing, silence, probing, and challenging assumptions were used in order to elicit thoughtful responses. Each participant was sent a copy of the transcribed interview and asked to read and
comment on the interviews. Such “member checks” added credibility to the research findings and
interpretations (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) and served as a source of “phenomenological validity”
(Bronfenbrenner, 1976).
Data Analysis
In analyzing the data, we sought to make sense of student affairs capitalism using a phenomenological approach including inductive reasoning and the constant comparative method (Glaser
& Strauss, 1967), simultaneously collecting and analyzing data. Specific tactics for generating
meaning included noting patterns and clustering into themes, noting relationships between variables, making contrasts and comparisons, seeking plausibility, and noting conceptual/theoretical
coherence (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
During the initial readings of the transcriptions, first-order concepts were identified (Van
Maanen, 1979). Subsequent readings were devoted to chunking these concepts into categories
based on relationships between concepts. Events, objects, and actions that were found to be conDownloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
JSARP 2013, 50(3) © NASPA 2013 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 297
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
ceptually similar were grouped as categories. Themes were then identified and facilitated a better
understanding of the professionalization experiences of early-career professionals (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
Phenomenology requires that researchers acknowledge and incorporate previous understandings related to the phenomenon being studied in order to obtain greater insights on and relatedness to one’s world (Van Manen, 1990). In research reflexivity, the researchers’ backgrounds
and positions influence the research topic, investigation approach, findings reported, and framing
of the conclusions (Malterud, 2001). Having multiple investigators fosters reflexive research in order to view the topic from multiple angles (Cohen & Crabtree, 2006).
The researchers have experience in a range of positions and academic environments. Both
authors have worked closely with early-career professionals as instructors and supervisors. We
had observed increasing entrepreneurialism and the changing nature of many traditional student
affairs programs, (e.g., career services, orientation, and leadership training) over the past decade.
These combined experiences as student affairs practitioners and researchers inspired the study
and led us to investigate the phenomenon. While we purposefully remained open in the interviews
and questioning, we were critical in our data analysis to identify the extent to which ideological
conflicts might exist.
The phenomenon of student affairs capitalism—the reorientation of student affairs professional practice towards the financial interests of institutions—was evidenced in a variety of ways.
Findings demonstrated specific tensions in student affairs ideals and practice for early-career
practitioners. The thematic categories that emerged from the data regarding the professionalization tensions were as follows: Ideological Tensions, Early-career Professional Entrepreneur, and
Students as Cheap Labor.
Ideological Tensions
Almost all interviewees acknowledged some disconnect between what they learned as students and as employees, creating some cognitive dissonance and frustration. For some, the tension
was starkly evident upon the first few days or weeks of employment. In his first year as a student
affairs professional, Steven (Southwestern University) reported, “It is a struggle when I feel like I
am doing a job where those theories don’t even play a role. . . . The theory gets lost in the job.” Steven’s
dissatisfaction was associated with the irrelevance of his academic learning with the daily realities
of his job. He further explained that he would not suggest that his academic program offer coursework in marketing but instead preferred that his work focus more on the development of students.
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
298 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 © NASPA 2013 JSARP 2013, 50(3)
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
Others observed a gradual divergence between professional and workplace values as their
learning and professional experiences increased. Based upon several years as an early-career professional, Rebecca (Sunnyside State University) explained
The values that the office encourages are production and time management. We are only to
spend time with students for a specific allotted amount—usually 10 minutes max—and
then move on so that we can get our applications processed. It is not student friendly, nor
does it have the best interest of the students at heart.
The central problem, according to Rebecca, was not the disconnect between the academic program
and her working environment, but the failure of the work environment to align with the essential
values of the field. She perceived her work as dominated by a bottom-line mentality and the goals of
organizational efficiency as incompatible with the goals of student development. Rebecca further
I definitely think that the majority of the people I interact with on this campus at least begin
with the notion of serving the students. I think that some are more willing to let that commitment slide a little bit to have a better bottom line. . . . Where it really seems to suffer are
the offices that are really driven by the notion of this being a business and the students being
the consumers.
Not only were economic interests preceding student interests, the roles of students were also conceptualized as consumers and addressed accordingly. The metaphor of the university as a “business” was commonly mentioned throughout the interviews.
Early-career professionals attempted to make sense of prioritizing revenue generation and
market-like activities. Most initially approached their jobs with the goals of hierarchizing student
development, but sooner or later found the pressure of the bottom line pulling them away from
their professional ideals. Madison (Southwestern University) commented, “I feel like we’re selling
our soul to the corporate devil.” Her words capture how several new student affairs professionals
felt about their role in revenue generation. Three other early-career professionals used the word
“devil” to describe the market effect in student affairs. Not only were new student affairs professionals concerned about producing funds and how this emphasis steered them away from the interests of students, they perceived such practices as “unethical.” Madison further elucidated
I think this whole corporatization doesn’t fit with what our profession[al] standard is supposed to be. Just think about the bookstore outsourcing to Nike. We’re teaching our students about service and honesty and integrity, and here we are making them all wear stupid
University shoes that are made by people that are getting three cents an hour in some country. . . . I think, so often, we’re eager to sell our souls to the corporate devil because we really
want to augment our programs.
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
JSARP 2013, 50(3) © NASPA 2013 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 299
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
Steven (Southwestern University) echoed these sentiments and lamented that while he may
produce funding for student programs, his focus was taken away from student development.
He explained
I’ve felt a lot of pressure from the higher ups . . . that we need to make this money. All of a
sudden we have to sell something else, ads in a guide that we publish. . . . And that’s not
something that I felt I signed up to do, but it was something that I’m doing. . . . At the same
time, I think I’m losing the idea of developing students and I don’t really work with students
in a way that I would really like to or that I hope to do in the future. For me, it is very difficult to understand the congruency of student development and selling things for revenuegenerating organizations.
As two of the first-year professionals, Madison and Steven, pointed out, there appeared to be a tension between promoting student values and selling products, with the latter perceived as controversial. But as both interviewees also assumed, there was a “necessary evil” in selling particular
commercial products in order to sustain student services.
Early-Career Professional Entrepreneurs
Many early-career professionals discussed entrepreneurialism as a regular part of their current positions. For the majority, the notion of earning funds in the university setting was foreign.
Almost a third of the participants discussed marketing as a primary expectation within their current role. Many discussed pressures to commodify student development programs, such as copywriting leadership curriculum for sale and eliciting corporate sponsorship for events. Students at
Southwestern University were especially critical. Lael (Southwestern University), suggested that
the pressure was so strong that her organization was willing to produce services simply “just because we needed that revenue.” She said
I just find that really frustrating to be told that we need to have a conference or that we need
to sell programs or publish things when we know they’re not ready yet to go out and we
know it’s not a perfect product. Despite our worries, we’re still being almost forced.
Similarly, Jill (Southwestern University), who works in this same unit, explained added
work duties: “Office-wide, there’s more pressure to find donors, to find people to give us money.
There’s this added component to our jobs that wasn’t necessarily there—to be fundraisers and to
do outreach and to write up proposals.” Both Lael and Jill’s comments demonstrate revenue generation as new or added work responsibilities. Lael commented about how student affairs capitalism
made her feel
Sometimes it makes me feel kind of dirty, because it feels like we’re pimping out our students. We’ll say things like, ‘Hey, as long as they are willing to pay for the program, we’ll name
it after them.’ It’s just unfortunate that it’s come down to that, that we’re willing to say that
we’ll name Greek Weekend after someone.
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
300 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 © NASPA 2013 JSARP 2013, 50(3)
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
The metaphor of prostitution demonstrated the extent to which Lael believed students were being
dehumanized for the sake of profits. Selling sponsorships to appeal to the egos of donors or reputations of corporations left early-career student affairs professionals like Lael deeply troubled.
Not all early-career professionals saw entrepreneurialism as negative. For a few early-career
professionals, the commodification of student development was an ideal place to launch commercial ideas, and it was incumbent upon them to be skillful negotiators and businesspersons. Lisa
(Pacific State University) explained
[Money-making] appeals to a certain part of the entrepreneurial side of me. I don’t eat, sleep
and drink student affairs all the time. I have that little entrepreneur in me that thinks, ‘Hey,
I can go out there and achieve this and this is more of a tangible goal to actually raise that
money.’ So, maybe that fulfills something in me personally.
Some of the early-career professionals believed that their colleagues were enthusiastic about raising money and enjoyed it. However, such sentiments were isolated and did not hold true for the
majority of participants. Very few enjoyed the fundraising side of their work.
There was also some evidence that the concept of merit was being altered. One respondent
lamented the stratification of sub-units in her department, indicating that programs were being
rewarded without consideration of measurable student outcomes. The sub-units generating the
most revenue were most highly rewarded. Respondents noted that individuals who successfully
produced income were looked upon favorably and given positive attention from the upper administration.
As with merit, the conflict for most interviewees was decision-making about programs and
positions based on fiscal realities rather than student outcomes. Cynthia (Mountain View University) talked about poor stewardship, being paid despite not directly assisting students, and her
dilemma in trying to be student-centered:
The students are one of my top priorities and my salary is coming from their programming
dollars. . . . It is not coming from the union [and] that is very frustrating when I know that I
am not doing anything and I am sitting around. Yes, I like the money, but my students could
be using it to do some other program. …My students are being penalized for this.
Pacific State participants, in contrast, spoke continuously about assessment and the need to justify
programmatic spending. One Pacific State University student, Erin, commented on her supervisor’s
expectations, “We have to now figure a way to justify how we spend our money and how we spend
our resources . . . and that your program is something that cannot be easily replaced by another program.” Several Pacific State participants articulated a strong message of using assessment to guide
programming efforts and the accountability measures that the institution was taking to ensure
financial allocations were going to programs that would generate the most financial returns.
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
JSARP 2013, 50(3) © NASPA 2013 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 301
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
Students as Cheap Labor
Most participants observed increases in the number of students for whom they were responsible. According to Rachel (Sunnyside State University), “With 90 athletes, I don’t have as much
time and energy to be able just to focus on the application of student development. I do my best,
but I think there are limitations with that big of a load.” According to Rachel and several others,
the administrative structure and heavy workload demands made it especially difficult to consider
individual undergraduate student needs and to provide their full attention to their development.
Others spoke of decreasing staff positions. Leah (Sunnyside State University) exemplified the sentiments
We’re cutting some really important positions around here and whether we’ll rehire graduate
students is iffy. People are already stretched so thin around here. I think that’s true in any
student affairs office that I’ve ever been in. . . . You are there more than 40 hours or you’re just
not getting everything done. It can’t be good for professionals to always feel behind in everything they’re doing. It has to be discouraging, but there isn’t a lot of support there.
New student affairs professionals indicated increasing pressure to accomplish what they felt were
unrealistic job expectations and suggested that hiring more full-time staff would alleviate some of
the burden. Instead, the pressure was alleviated through the creative use of graduate students and
even undergraduates.
Many interviewees articulated a sense of student exploitation from mid- to upper-level managers and felt they had no choice but to participate. Lael (Southwestern University) commented, “I
think that students are obviously really capable, but I think we’re sometimes using them because
they’re cheap labor. . . . We also are outsourcing our work to our students and paying them the least
amount possible.” Jill (Southwestern University) added that the less experienced were especially
at risk. She said
Because grad assistants tend to be younger or right out of school, they don’t have the knowledge yet to know that they are being semi-exploited, that it is an exploitation and you have
to figure it out. It is hard to reconcile it, because I also know that things need to get done in
order to meet that top priority of making sure my students have what they need.
Matt (Mountain View University) provided a similar personal example:
Sometimes I think students are deluded that it does more for them than it really does, when
they could be getting compensated. I gave ambassador tours as an undergraduate. We didn’t
get paid. It saved the university a heck of a lot of money that all their recruiters weren’t having to give tours two times a day, 5 days a week.
While offering student tours was a common unpaid practice, questions arose for participants about
what should constitute voluntary service for the good of students and utilizing students to save
institutional labor costs. According to these and other interviewees, efficiently utilizing students
as cheap or free labor was essential to maintaining their program operations.
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
302 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 © NASPA 2013 JSARP 2013, 50(3)
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
Early-career professionals expressed signs of being exploited themselves but appeared to lack
agency in changing their working conditions out of fear of losing their positions in the challenging
employment market. Their collective inaction may also have been attributable to the generally caring nature of student affairs combined with perceived pressure to give without compensation. Jill
(Southwestern University) shared
I did so much as an undergraduate and I think we in student affairs are a different breed in
the fact that we were willing to give so much. I did some of the stuff that they do for compensation for free. . . . Like I think that they are getting the experience that they need and I
think that because we can’t pay them, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not going to be
rewarded in other senses I guess.
As explained by Jill and echoed by other interviewees, the altruistic nature of student affairs, combined with volunteerism as a perceived opportunity for professional development, makes earlycareer professionals particularly vulnerable to high work demands for little or no pay given the
limited positions available.
Lael (Southwestern), who was paid for 20 hours per week but was actually working 25–30
hours per week felt “exploited” but also “lucky”:
It is hard to reconcile it, because I also know that things need to get done in order to meet
that top priority of making sure my students have what they need. So, I find if I work those
extra hours then I am lucky enough to have a supervisor who is very good about saying flex
hours are fine. . . . If you work all weekend then don’t come in during the week and don’t feel
like you need to explain that to anybody.
Lael further expressed that being overworked and underpaid signified an important professional
value of being committed to students. In the end, she described herself as being “lucky” because
her supervisor offered some flexibility in decreasing her hours Monday through Friday when she
worked for no additional pay on weekends.
The student affairs sector faces some paradoxical challenges. Our research suggests that budgetary shortfalls and the consequent search for revenue have entered the daily work of early-career
student affairs professionals, with participants from each of the four programs reporting evidence
of student affairs capitalism. In both revenue and nonrevenue generating units, professional tensions related to an emphasis on selling products over student development, the pressure to work
without being compensated and the utilization of students as cheap labor. For some early-career
professionals, tensions were noted as early as within the first few days of employment, whereas for
others, such tensions became increasingly evident the longer they were in the field.
The findings also indicate some major conflicts between what was taught in the classroom
and what was experienced in the work environment. Part of the dissonance was related to making
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
JSARP 2013, 50(3) © NASPA 2013 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 303
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
sense of this entrepreneurial turn and lacking a conceptual base upon which to draw. The vast majority of interviewees felt the problem had more to do with professional practices failing to align
with the essential values of student affairs and what was taught in their courses rather than due to
any major shortcomings in their academic program.
Research Implications
Although this study provides initial qualitative evidence of student affairs capitalism as reported by early-career professionals, the phenomenon remains ripe for much further and deeper
exploration considering the study limitations. Among the limitations of the study was whether
there exists a clear correlation between years in the student affairs profession and increasing entrepreueurialism given the small sample size. The participant sample also presented a limitation.
The perspectives of participants’ employers and faculty remain unknown. There may be conflicting
views about student affairs capitalism among faculty and those who supervise new professionals,
which could have provided alternative dimensions of this phenomenon. In order to understand
the reach of student affairs capitalism, further research should draw from a national sample and
compare the observations and experiences of early-career practitioners with senior professionals,
those with graduate degrees in student affairs with those with graduate degrees in other fields, and
those who have stayed with those who have left student affairs. Whether early-career professionals’
ideological and workplace views became more congruent the longer they remain in their jobs is also
Future studies might also focus on evaluating student affairs programs and whether/how
they are preparing students for current fiscal realities. Additionally, future research could examine
the trend towards hiring graduate students and even undergraduates in place of full-time employees. The issue becomes particularly concerning if the job opportunities for full-time, entry-level
professionals narrow and student affairs programs are not able to place their graduates in such
Practice Implications
The study results offer practical implications for student affairs services, preparation programs, and professional associations. Each professional sector plays a role in shaping the kinds of
services that are provided, the values and practices of early-career professionals, and the direction
of the field in the uncertain economic future.
As the survival of existing student services remains a concern in fiscally challenging times,
the quality of delivery is especially at risk and must be rigorously monitored. While assessment
is an essential competency in student affairs, this study revealed that assessment was mostly associated with the monetary bottom line in an environment with diminishing resources. Special
attention needs to be paid to preserving programs that serve targeted populations but might not
be financially lucrative. While some auxiliary programs (e.g., campus bookstores, student unions)
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
304 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 © NASPA 2013 JSARP 2013, 50(3)
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
help improve the overall quality of the services all students receive, the entrepreneurial emphasis
on other programs (e.g., residence halls, tutoring services) may lead to the stratification of student
support (and ultimately student success) based on one’s ability to pay. For programs that seek to
create learning-centered workplaces, increasing demands being placed on full-time staff may lead
to less attention on mentoring student workers.
The findings call for greater accountability in regards to student outcomes and what might
be lost as resources and attention are diverted to activities that do not directly contribute to student success. The student employees’ experiences must also be especially considered. While student employment and volunteerism are generally positive forms of college engagement and provide
valuable entrée into student affairs careers, the quality of engagement matters (Kuh, 2009). In this
study, many students reported working too many unpaid hours and participating in activities that
sometimes felt incongruent with their core values. Thus, the outcomes of student recipients of services as well as those serving in student affairs roles should be continuously assessed.
Student affairs graduate programs play a key role in addressing some of the dissonance that
may exist between coursework and employment. In our examination of the curricula after the interviews, we noticed that among the four academic programs in this study, only one addressed issues related to student affairs capitalism. We suggest incorporating intellectual engagement on
fiscal realities into the CAS standards for student affairs graduate program curricula. In addition
to incorporating issues related to capitalism in the curriculum, programs may also provide mentoring from more seasoned professionals, in addition to their immediate supervisors and faculty,
to help early-career professionals make sense of the conflicts they might be experiencing. While
internships are required in many student affairs graduate programs, ongoing reflection and “safe
spaces” to discuss value conflicts may also be beneficial to student learning (Kuh, 2009).
Finally, we call upon student affairs, including its associations and graduate professional
preparation programs, to move beyond idealized outcomes and unfeasible theories and make conscious, and foreseeably difficult, decisions on how to maintain its core professional values and commitment to the public good in these tumultuous economic times. Based on the study findings, we
recommend that the professional associations and professional preparation programs proactively
engage in serious dialogue and address the following: (a) ways that ongoing budget cuts to many
student services might be redefining student affairs professions, (b) preparing early-career professionals for such cutbacks while maintaining clear and relevant student learning outcomes, (c)
preparing students to advocate for themselves and their core values, and (d) the future vision for
student affairs given the likelihood of ongoing financial challenges in higher education. Student
affairs professionals will continue to face challenges in maintaining corevalues while adapting to
financial realities posed by the wider economy. Student affairs, including its organizations, associations, and institutions, must make some foreseeably difficult decisions ahead.
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
JSARP 2013, 50(3) © NASPA 2013 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 305
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
American College Personnel Association. (2012). Alphabetical list of preparation programs. Retrieved
American College Personnel Association. (2013). ACPA ethical principles and standards. Retreived from
Bloland, P., Stamatakos, L., & Rogers, R., (1994). Reform in student affairs: A critique of student development. Greensboro, NC: ERIC Counseling & Student Services Clearinghouse.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1976). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Burns, M. (1982). Who leaves the student affairs field? NASPA Journal, 20(2), 9–12.
Carpenter, S., & Stimpson, M. (2007). Professionalism, scholarly practice, and professional development in student affairs. NASPA Journal, 44(2), 265–284.
Cohen D., & Crabtree B. (2006). Qualitative research guidelines project. Retrieved from http://www.
Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. (2012). CAS general standards.
Retrieved from
Fennell, J. (2010). The impact of undergraduate experiences on the decision to become a student affairs professional. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Nebraska.
Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Hirt, J. (2007). The student affairs profession in the academic marketplace. Journal of Student Affairs
Research and Practice, 44(2), 245–264.
Holmes, D., Verrier, D., & Chisholm, P. (1983). Persistence in student affairs work: Attitudes and job
shifts among master’s program graduates. Journal of College Student Personnel, 24(5), 438–443.
Hunter, D. (1992). How student affairs professionals choose their careers. NASPA Journal, 29(3),
Ivey, A. (1994) Intentional inter viewing and counseling: Facilitating client development in a multicultural
society (3rd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Jackson , M. (2000). Fundraising and development. In M. J. Farr & M. K. Desler (Eds.), The handbook
of student affairs administration (2nd ed., pp. 597–611). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kretovics, M. (2002). Entry-level competencies: What student affairs administrators consider
when screening candidates. Journal of College Student Development, 43(6), 912–920.
Kuh, G. (2009). What student affairs professionals need to know about student engagement. Journal of College Student Development, 50(6), 683–706.
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
306 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 © NASPA 2013 JSARP 2013, 50(3)
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.
Lorden, L. (1998). Attrition in the student affairs profession. Journal of Student Affairs Research and
Practice, 35(3), 207–216.
Malterud, K. (2001). Qualitative research: Standards, challenges and guidelines. The Lancet,
358(9280), 483–488.
Maxwell, J. (1996). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Miles, M., & Huberman, A. (1994). Qualitative data analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
NASPA. (2013). NASPA common values. Retreived from
Pheffer, J., & Salancik, G. (1978). The external control of organizations: A resource dependence perspective.
Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Rhoades, G. (1998). Managed professionals: Unionized faculty and restructuring academic labor. Albany, NY:
State University of New York Press.
Rosser, V., & Javinar, J. (2003). Midlevel student affairs leaders’ intentions to leave: Examining the
quality of their professional and institutional work life. Journal of College Student Development, 44(6), 813–830.
Ryan, M. (2003). Contemporary issues in student housing finance. In J. H. Schuh (Ed.), Contemporary financial issues in student affairs (pp. 59–71). New Directions for Student Services, no. 103.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Schrecker, E. (2011, August 28). An old story with a dangerous new twist. The Chronicle of Higher
Education. Retrieved from
Slaughter, S., & Leslie, L. (1997). Academic capitalism. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.
Slaughter, S., & Rhoades, G. (2004). Academic capitalism and the new economy: Markets, state, and higher
education. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Taub, D., & McEwen, M. (2006). Decision to enter the profession of student affairs. Journal of College
Student Development, 47(2), 206–216.
Tull, A. (2006). Synergistic supervision, job satisfaction, and intention to turnover of new professionals in student affairs. Journal of College Student Development, 47(4), 465–480.
Van Maanen, J. (1979). The fact of fiction in organizational ethnography. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24(4), 539–550.
Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Albany,
NY: State University of New York Press.
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016
JSARP 2013, 50(3) © NASPA 2013 doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0021 307
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career Student Affairs Professionals
Winston, R., Creamer, D & Miller, T. (2001). The professional student affairs administrator: Educator, leader, and manager. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.
Woodard, D., & DeArmond, M. (1998). Managed student services: The changing nature of our work. Unpublished paper. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona.
Downloaded by [University of Arizona] at 04:28 07 January 2016

Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply

Buy Custom Essay

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
Student Affairs Capitalism and Early-Career
Just from $10/Page
Order Essay

Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?

Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.

Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?

  • Plagiarism free papers
  • Timely delivery
  • Any deadline
  • Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
  • Subject-relevant academic writer
  • Adherence to paper instructions
  • Ability to tackle bulk assignments
  • Reasonable prices
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • Get superb grades consistently

Online Academic Help With Different Subjects


Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.


Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.

Computer science

Computer science is a tough subject. Fortunately, our computer science experts are up to the match. No need to stress and have sleepless nights. Our academic writers will tackle all your computer science assignments and deliver them on time. Let us handle all your python, java, ruby, JavaScript, php , C+ assignments!


While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.


Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.


In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.


Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.


We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!


We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.


Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.

What discipline/subjects do you deal in?

We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.

Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?

Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.

What if I don’t like the paper?

There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.

Reasons being:

  • When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
  • We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.

In the event that you don’t like your paper:

  • The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
  • We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
  • Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.

Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?

Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.

What if the paper is plagiarized?

We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.

When will I get my paper?

You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.

Will anyone find out that I used your services?

We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.

How our Assignment  Help Service Works

1.      Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2.      Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3.      Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4.      Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

smile and order essaysmile and order essay PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH US TODAY AND GET A PERFECT SCORE!!!

order custom essay paper