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How Registrars Can Lead Higher Ed Toward Student Centricity

The customer is at the center of everything across all industries.

Students see themselves as customers of higher education institutions. However, many colleges and universities are still hesitant to treat their students as customers or consumers.  

“The one thing we in higher ed don’t like to really say is that students are consumers and have the same behaviors in our industry as they do in every other industry,” says Michelle Newman, Associate Provost and University Registrar at American Public University System  

Modern Campus, in partnership with AACRAO, conducted a study entitled The Modern Registrar: Reflections from the Field. The study explores how student-centric today's higher ed institutions are and the cost of not centering students. It also highlights how the modern registrar holds a unique position in an institution to help make it student-centric.  

This blog post sheds light on key points from the study and some registrars’ thoughts, as published in The EvoLLLution. 

Why Student Centricity? 

It’s time higher education institutions treated students as customers and became student-centric.  

Newman emphasizes the need, saying, “How we behave when we buy new shoes, purses, clothes—we are consumers. We choose where we spend our money, just like they [students] choose where they spend their resources and time. So being student-centric is important, and it’s about putting their needs at the center of what we do.”  

The registrars who participated in the roundtable discussion after the survey discussed the cost of not being student-centric. They broadly agreed that a lack of student centricity will impact key performance indicators for modern higher education institutions—including enrollment, persistence and credential attainment. 

How Student Centric Are We Today? 

The study indicates that many colleges and universities may not have an agreed-upon working definition of ‘student-centric practices’.  

However, in a recent survey on undergraduate class-scheduling practices, 31% of respondents said class-scheduling processes at their institution were not student centered. This suggests institutions may not be as student-centric as they want to be. 

The Role of the Registrar in Driving Student Centricity 

Discussion participants shared their perspectives on what they meant by student centricity. Across the board, they said that being student-centric means placing the student at the center of decision-making around policy, practice and the use of technology. 

“The modern and future registrar must understand what their students need. They must engage with students, meet students where they are and provide the support students need,” says Doug McKenna, University Registrar, George Mason University 

“The registrar’s office is a service office. We provide service to primarily our students but also all the people who support those students—faculty, staff, other student services’ offices, etc.,” adds McKenna.  

Holding that unique position, registrars can improve their students’ experience from enrollment through retention and graduation. 

“The registrar’s office plays one of the largest roles in [retention] because, after the student is recruited and admitted, we are responsible for their records, for the systems they use and many of their administrative interactions as they progress through their student career. It’s incumbent upon us to make those experiences positive, and we can’t do that if we’re not thinking about the student,” explains McKenna.  

“A lot of innovation comes out of the registrar’s office. And because of that, I really believe that student-centricity can start there... We play an integral role in each of our institutions in helping provide that student-centric view. I also know that it’s a balancing act to work within strict policy or law,” says Newman. 

According to the study, registrars agree that they should focus on strategic areas beyond just record keeping. They also agree that with adequate authority and efficient technology, they can lead their institutions to be more student-centric. 

How Can Modern Registrars Lead Their Institutions Toward Student Centricity?  

Given the breadth and depth of responsibility, knowledge base and access to data, the modern registrar can help an institution become truly student-centric.

Download our white paper to discover how your college or university can leverage the registrar’s expertise to meet modern students’ expectations.


Empowering Registrars to Meet Modern Learners’ Expectations

How Modern Registrars Can Enable Higher Ed Institutions to Become More Student Centric

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Last updated: November 11, 2022


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