Becoming A Student-ready College Summary/Discussion Questions

Becoming a student-ready college: a new culture of leadership for student success

Authors: Tia Brown McNair, Susan Albertine, Michelle Asha Cooper, Nicole McDonald, Thomas Major, Jr.


  • About the Authors
  • About AAC&U
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: In Search of the Student-Ready College
  • Chapter 2: Leadership Values and Organizational Culture
  • Chapter 3: Making Excellence Inclusive to Support Student Success
  • Chapter 4: Building Student Readiness through Effective Partnerships
  • Chapter 5: Demonstrating Belief in Students
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Index


Boost student success by reversing your perspective on college readiness. The national conversation asking “Are students college-ready?” concentrates on numerous factors that are beyond higher education’s control. Becoming a Student-Ready College flips the college readiness conversation to provide a new perspective on creating institutional value and facilitating student success. Instead of focusing on student preparedness for college (or lack thereof), this book asks the more pragmatic question of what are colleges and universities doing to prepare for the students who are entering their institutions? What must change in an institution’s policies, practices, and culture in order to be student-ready? Clear and concise, this book is packed with insightful discussion and practical strategies for achieving your ambitious student success goals. These ideas for redesigning practices and policies provide more than food for thought they offer a real-world framework for real institutional change. You’ll learn:

  • How educators can acknowledge their own biases and assumptions about underserved students in order to allow for change
  • New ways to advance student learning and success
  • How to develop and value student assets and social capital
  • Strategies and approaches for creating a new student-focused culture of leadership at every level

To truly become student-ready, educators must make difficult decisions, face the pressures of accountability, and address their preconceived notions about student success head-on. Becoming a Student-Ready College provides a reality check based on today’s higher education environment.
(source: Nielsen Book Data)

Chapter Discussion Questions and Key Points

Chapter 1: In Search of the Student-Ready College

What is a student ready college?

  • Strategically and holistically advance student success
  • Works to educate all students civically and as economic participants in a global society
  • Includes all members of campus – leaders and educators

What are some challenges colleges face in becoming student ready?

  • Not structured to support the level of engagement needed
  • No expectation or requirement to be student centered
  • Struggle with competing demands

Who are our students today?

  • Have a desire to learn and grow, participate in higher ed, looking to make a good living
  • Myth that students were better prepared in the past, at the same time as higher ed grows so have the needs for support
  • Changing student needs stretch the system


Chapter 2: Leadership Values and Organizational Culture

Perspective Taking

  • Look at your own values in the context of your campus values
  • How would your role on camps be different with a student-ready perspective?
  • What would it mean to be a student-ready leader?

Principle 1:  All the people who work on campus have the capacity to be effective educators.

Principle 2: Shared governance can accomplish a great deal of good.

Chapter 3: Making Excellence Inclusive to Support Student Success

How can educators build an intentional and supportive environment for students that reinforces that every student is known, respected, supported and valued?

What institutional policies and practices need to be re-examined and changed to alleviate barriers to student engagement and success?

How are institutions preparing all students for the kind of challenges they will confront in life, work, and citizenship?

How does your institution value and affirm the cultural capital of underserved students?

What do your own students stories tell you about the work you need to do?

What are the learning outcomes for your institution? For your department? For your program?

We have an individual and shared responsibility to engage in self-reflection and hold each other accountable for our actions. We need to learn to be empathetic educators and focus on students’ strengths, not deficits. A student-ready college prioritizes learning over efficiency. The success of students comes first.

Chapter 4: Building Student Readiness through Effective Partnerships

  1. Who are today’s college students, and what institutional and interpersonal dynamics can influence their success on college campuses?
  2. How can leaders create partnerships that work?

Student-ready colleges cultivate more effective opportunities to support the academic, social and financial needs of their students by:

  • Engaging as active participants in an ecosystem of complex, evolving, interdependent organizations
  • Operating according to a strategic paradigm that involves, understanding, respecting, and leveraging the resources of the organization across the ecosystem
  • Working together to create new innovations and to shape the future

Student-ready colleges select effective partnerships by:

  1. Having an appreciation of common work, strengths, and needs
  2. Acknowledging overlapping accountability
  3. Creating and agreement on infrastructure
  4. Committing to shared cost
  5. Engaging in continuous communication


Chapter 5: Demonstrating Belief in Students

What language predominates in campus discussions of students and their capacity to learn? Is the language compassionate? Is it frank and genuine? Is it consistently hopeful?

Does your campus define student success in terms of achievement of learning outcomes? Does success include other indicators of students flourishing, including affective and non-cognitive growth? How much do you know about the ways your students are learning beyond the typical indicators of achievement such as graduation rates, time to degree, and grade point averages?

A student ready campus as a whole makes belief in students an intentional and inviting expectation of everyone who works there, from the ground up to the top down, keeping an eye on the horizon and welcoming ideas from beyond the institution.