Our economic downturn has forced us to examine many of our institutions and several of them are getting failing grades. While Wall Street, banks, and our regulatory agencies are rightfully catching most of the heat, our colleges are not looking too good under renewed scrutiny.

Less than 60% of entering freshmen will graduate from 4 year colleges and less than 35% from our community colleges. This represents a loss of billions of dollars to students, families, and taxpayers and is scandalous.

As set forth in “Crossing the Finish Line” by William Bowman, institutions may do a great job of recruitment and enrollment, but a very poor job of seeing their mission through to graduating students.

One of the most overlooked reasons for such high dropout rates is the lack of a culture of service excellence. Many of our schools feel it is not their responsibility to create an environment that promotes graduation, that this is the sole domain of the student. Many professors feel that they are there to cull the unworthy students from worthy, that they are the gatekeepers for society in admitting only the most deserving. Many feel that service excellence applied towards students means giving “A’s” for poor work and pandering to the lazy.

None of this is true. A culture of service does not mean lowering the bar for all to achieve. It means engaging the students to motivate them to high achievement, providing the support, recognition, and feeling that they belong and are part of something special. This is not the duty of just the professors, but everyone from the groundskeepers, administrators, admissions, bursar’s office, and trustees.

What is the culture of service excellence at your institution?

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