Advice: Student Turnover

By | January 6, 2021

This post was contributed by Emily Wanous, Legislative Director, Oregon Student Association.

Question: How would you suggest administration, faculty and staff maintain momentum on the issue of textbook affordability when students by definition turn over because they graduate?

Students are important partners in open education initiatives because they are directly affected by the high cost of textbooks. To put this in context, consider the other economic pressures that students face. Because of Oregon’s divestment from post-secondary institutions, students are bearing higher costs of attendance. From 2009-2019, net tuition and fees in Oregon increased by 72%, while the national increase was only 38%. On top of this, state financial aid has not been able to keep up with the cost of attendance. Currently, 3 in 4 students who qualify for the Oregon Opportunity Grant do not receive the award due to a lack of statewide funding.

Coupling this with the lived experiences of students today, students recognize the need to think creatively about the myriad of ways they can take matters into their own hands and find savings elsewhere. Oregon Student Association surveys show that students among different institutions and demographics consistently report that affording tuition and affording textbooks are their top two concerns. This perfect storm means that the conditions are in place to increase student awareness and interest in Open Educational Resources (OER).

OER are a vital part of textbook affordability, yet many students are not directly aware of the benefits. Part of ensuring that institutional knowledge is passed on to new, incoming student government administrations is normalizing OER as a key player in textbook affordability in the student lexicon. Administration, faculty, and staff can assist students in their continued advocacy work around affordability–especially as turnover occurs in student governments–by actively reaching out to the new student government leaders and student leaders within other clubs and organizations on campus. Active outreach could be a number of things, such as scheduling introductory meetings with new leaders, inviting student leaders to provide testimony and input in meetings relevant to affordability, and collaborating with student governments on events, letters to the editors, and more.

Ideas to engage students and retain institutional knowledge during student turnover:

  1. Collaborate with the Oregon Student Association, which has been working on textbook affordability for the past decade and has systems in place for preserving institutional knowledge across student government administration turnover;
  2. Schedule one-on-one meetings with student government leaders;
  3. Offer trainings during the onboarding/transition planning periods;
  4. Collaborate on campus-wide events (such as virtual webinars, Q&A forums, tag team meetings with administration and faculty, etc); and
  5. Work with outgoing student leaders at the end of the year to capture their mentorship, advice, and lessons learned to hand down to the incoming team.

If this active outreach is done shortly after the new student administration takes office, a close working relationship can be built from the onset leading to an ease in future communications and work together. Not only would this support students navigating their new roles on campus, but it advances the OER initiative by educating more students on what OER is, how it benefits students today, and the potential for growth in the future.

Lastly, many campuses across Oregon belong to the Oregon Student Association (OSA), a student-led and student-run statewide organization that advocates for college affordability and accessibility. With nearly 50 years of experience, OSA works closely with student governments and assists them in their work on campus. If you are unable to find contact information for your campuses’ student government leaders, OSA can be of service in your effort. If you have any questions or ideas, we encourage you to reach out to Emily Wanous, OSA Legislative Director at emily@orstudents.org.

Got any additional advice about maintaining momentum with students despite their regular turnover? Please leave a note in the comments! Got a thorny problem? Send an email at https://openoregon.org/contact/ and maybe this advice column format will become a regular blog feature!

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