We recently read a Forbes article, “College Silos Must Die for Students to Thrive,” written by Ryan Craig and Troy Markowitz. In the article, Craig and Markowitz advocate for removing silos within the university system and redesigning the organizational structure. We 100% agree this is a necessary step many universities have yet to take. The proposed solution in the article, however, doesn’t quite fix things. We’ll explain more below.
Note: Although this article was published in 2017 and much has changed since then, university silos are still a problem in need of a viable solution.
What’s the Deal with Silos?
Colleges and universities operate under long-standing structures and silos that are really only navigable by students with previous college exposure (i.e. their parents went to college). For everyone else, it’s a foreign system with no guidebook. Students are left to figure it out or give up.
The Forbes article posits some great points about siloed institutions. Students are currently misplaced within the organizational structure of most universities. These institutions feed information toward students but don’t offer an easy way for them to access resources or connect with faculty for support. Departments operate as separate units, leaving students to navigate each department as if it were its own conglomerate instead of one centralized institution. The proposed solution puts students at the center of communication and requires departments to collaborate with one another to strengthen ties.
There are a few problems with this model:
- It doesn’t seem to make faculty’s lives easier. Asking departments to collaborate with one another only adds to faculty’s already packed workloads. Faculty across the country are drained and overworked and struggle to maintain a decent work-life balance. They don’t have time for more work. What they need is some reprieve.
- Establishing cross-functional departments is a lot of work with not enough return. It’s also a bit vague—suppose the Academic Department wants to partner with Student Affairs. What exactly would they do? Create a new program or resource for students? That doesn’t solve the silo problem because silos are inherent to the university structure. Creating new programs probably won’t change the way the university operates at the core.
- It’s complicated and still decentralized. Students are still left with multiple points of contact and struggle to know where to go to find help or resources. It doesn’t make things easier. Also, this model largely ignores equity and current retention issues. It doesn’t address the fact that college is challenging to navigate, especially for those with no previous exposure to the university system. This model doesn’t seem to change that and students are still going to fall through the cracks.
To eliminate silos effectively, we must consider the real impact on faculty and students. The university system is already complicated enough, so we need a solution that will make things easier and simpler for all parties. There’s no need to complicate things further.
A Real, Achievable Solution
Silos are a problem because they make it difficult for students to do what they came to school to do—learn, graduate, and prepare for a career. And since that’s true, we have to find a solution that makes navigating college easier so students can focus on what’s most important.
Here’s what we propose: A simple and efficient front-door solution that serves as a one-stop shop for all student needs.
Instead of wondering where to go for help, waiting in long lines, waiting for an email response, or digging through a university website, students now have on quick and easy place to go for help. Whether they need help with financial aid, coursework, mental health, career prep, tutoring, or something else, a centralized solution takes away the guesswork and allows students to focus on making the grade. They’re no longer stuck jumping from department to department because EVAN360 makes sure they’re directed to the right person for help right away.
When students can focus on school instead of spending hours searching for help, they have a greater chance of staying, working hard, and graduating on time. All they have to do is remember one place to go for help.
Faculty benefit too. When all inquiries are directed through one door, they don’t have to field hundreds of emails or have long lines of students waiting outside their office. What would have taken hours or days to respond to can now be answered on the spot. That means less work and a lighter load for faculty and more efficient communication all around.
If you could eliminate silos and improve equity and retention, why wouldn’t you?