||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
Student affairs is the department or division of services and support for students at institutions of higher education to enhance student growth and development in the United States and abroad. Outside the United States these services or departments are sometimes called "student support" or "Student Services". People who work in this field are also known as Student Affairs practitioners or Student Affairs professionals. These Student Affairs practitioners work provide services and support for students at institutions of higher education.
The size and organization of a student affairs division or department may vary based on the size, type, and location of an institution. These departments are often led by a Vice President or Vice Chancellor who then reports directly to the President/Chancellor of the institution.
In the United States as early as 1992, student affairs began to see a change in the reporting structure (Barr, Desler, & Associates, p. 125). Chief student affairs officers began to shift to the Provost, the chief academic officer.
History of student affairs
Student affairs beginnings have been traced back to Athenian education and universities in the Middle Ages, but is largely an American phenomenon. As the number of land-grant institutions increased, enrollment expanded, student populations began to include women, the idea of vocationalism began to influence academics and the institution's president began to be viewed as "the chief moral front" (p. 6). With these changes it became apparent that additional staff members were needed to allow the president to respond to the issues of finance and faculty recruitment.
The profession of student affairs "grew from the campus up, not from theory down" (p. 4). Early higher education in the United States was based on the Oxbridge model of education with most early institutions residential where the tutors lived in the halls with the students. These men were the precursor to student affairs professionals in the United States. Typically, they served as dean of disclipline and in loco parentis (in place of the parent). These early student affairs practitioners focus was on control of the student as opposed to modern philosophy which focuses on the development of the student as a whole, but has always connected those interested in the welfare of students with students needing assistance (p. 4).
These first student affairs professionals were the dean of women, dean of men and personnel workers. Many of the early deans came from "teaching roles in the liberal arts" (p. 8). Cowley (1937) identified the came first Dean of Men, LeBaron Russell Briggs, at Harvard University in 1890 with Adelia Johnston in 1869 at the Oberlin College as lady principal and later named Dean of Women in 1894. Alice Freeman Palmer in 1892 at the University of Chicago was the first to hold the title of Dean of Women. The position description might have read, "that officer in the administration who undertakes to assist the men students [to] achieve the utmost of which they are individually capable, through personal effort on their behalf, and through mobilizing in their behalf all the forces within the University which can be made to serve this end" (Secretarial Notes, 1928, p. 37).
The Dean of Men's position typically included discipline, but could vary depending on the institution's overall philosophy. The one thing that remained consistent was the responsibility to deal with men and help them develop to their potential (p. 9).
Deans of Women were trail blazers. Not only were women at colleges and universities a new development, but women as staff members even more new. The institutional leadership was dominated by men, but still they persevered including the founding of what is now the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in 1903.
In the 1960s the student development movement, the study of the student as a whole - physical, mental and emotional, was introduced.
In December 1918 Robert Rienow, the dean of men at the University of Iowa, wrote a letter to Thomas Arkle Clark, dean of men at the University of Illinois, suggesting a meeting that is now recognized as the founding of the organization now known as NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
In 1924, May L. Cheney, who organized a teacher placement office at the University of California, Berkeley helped form the National Association of Appointment Secretaries (NAAS). That year, NAAS met for the first time and came as guests of the National Association of Deans of Women (NADW) to a convention sponsored by the Department Superintendence of the National Education Association. In 1929, forty-six NAAS members registered for the Sixth Annual Convention. NAAS became the National Association of Personnel and Placement Officers (NAPPO). The name American College Personnel Association (ACPA) was adopted in 1931. Association communication consisted of one mailed newsletter, the Personnel-O-Gram (P-O-G). In 1937, the Student Personnel Point of View statement was developed by leaders of the American Council on Education (ACE) and ACPA.
The Student Personnel Points of View, written in 1937 and 1949, further developed the area of student affairs.
Student Affairs Personnel or College Student Personnel (CSP) graduate programs may include classes in psychology, business, law, communication, inter and intra-personal counseling, higher education, and group dynamics. These help to form a foundation for creating relationships with students, faculty, staff and parents. CSP programs tend to be found in departments of leadership, counseling, psychology and education. Traditionally these programs have an emphasis in administration, student development theory or counseling. 
Developmental theories used in college student personnel programs include
- Chickering's Seven Vectors
- Astin's Theory of Involvement
- Komives, Owen, Longerbeam, Mainella and Osteen's Leadership Identity Development
- Gilligan's Theory of Moral Development
- Erikson's Developmental Theory of Gay Development
- Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
- Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development
- Erikson's Theory of Human Development
- Tinto's Model of Student Retention
Student Affairs professionals
People who work in the field of Student Affairs are also known as student affairs practitioners, Student Affairs staff, or university administrators. These student affairs practitioners work provide services and support for students at institutions of higher education.
Student affairs professionals are charged with the tasks of working in the various areas or in specific services for students. Sometimes given the goal of developing programming, advising student organizations and student leaders and conducting research to meet the needs of the whole student – physical, emotional and mental. Challenges in meeting this goal include the budget, staffing of students at colleges and universities.
Preparation for Student Affairs
Traditionally Student Affairs practitioners and College Student Personnel have completed graduate work with a complementary assistantship. An assistantship can be an entry level position, but is usually a part-time paraprofessional position with compensation including tuition waiver, professional development and a stipend. These are sometimes called Graduate assistant. A graduate program is usually two academic years of full-time study with opportunities for internship and abroad opportunities. Universities offer graduate programs sometimes called College Student Personnel, Higher Education Student Affairs, or Educational Leadership which lead to a Master of Education (M.Ed) or master of arts (M.A) degree, or Master of Science (M.S.) degree. Doctoral programs do exist for Student Affairs professionals. Programs eventually lead to a doctorate of Education (Ed.D) or philosophy (Ph.D.).
Student Affairs areas
The Handbook of Student Affairs Administration and professional associations, NASPA and ACPA, identify typical departments within a division of Student Affairs. Departments may overlap or combined into one office, especially at smaller institutions. Some departments can include:
- Academic and research services
- Academic Advising the office or department aimed to provide student academic guidance relating to courses
- Career Development or Career Services including employer relations, interview placement, course of study guidance and internships
- Assessment and Research focused on assessment and research implementation
- Judicial Affairs sometimes called student conduct enforces community standards and campus codes of conduct, may include ethical programs/education and mediation for academic or behavioral concerns
- Alumni and fundraising
- Campus life
- Campus Safety or Police Services, may be city law enforcement officers
- College/Student Union or Student Centers, College Centers or University Centers, responsible for day-to-day operation of facility and may include food services/catering or other auxiliary services. Sometimes this building might be associated with student activities.
- Student Activities or Student Involvement provides co-curricular programming on campus, advises campus programming, student organizations and student governance. It may include Student Activity Board, student government and student activity fee disbursement.
- Leadership Programs provides leadership opportunities, may include Student Government
- Community Service engage students in community service and experiential learning opportunities and Service Learning
- Greek Affairs or Fraternity and Sorority Life, including advisement of governing councils, recruitment and leadership programming for new and initiated members
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Multicultural Affairs provides support and programming to create an environment of respect and education. This area or depart might have specific areas to serve students of various backgrounds. Institutions may have specialized departments such as a Women’s Center, technology support as well as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Services.
- Commuter Services or Adult Students or Non-Traditional Students, services for students living off-campus including social programs and transition for non-traditional students
- International Student Services assists and supports international students, may include Study or Education Abroad
- Disability Support Services include note taking, accommodations and advocacy. This office many times advocates for policies and services relating to compliance of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- Spirituality, Faith or Religious Services usually at private institutions regardless of institution’s affiliation
- Health and wellness
- Health Services provides individual medical and/or mental health care, usually includes public health education programs and counseling services
- Counseling Services for students, faculty and staff, accredited counseling staff
- Wellness education focused on providing services and information on alcohol, person wellness and financial wellness.
- Housing or accommodations
- Residence Life or Housing provides housing, programming and support for on-campus residents, may include food services Outside the United States this might be called accommodations or housing services.
- Dining and Food Services may be auxiliary and/or part of the College/Student Union
- Off campus student services might focus on providing resources for student who live off campus and off campus housing options.
- New student enrollment and enrollment services
- Enrollment Management may include Financial Aid, Bursar and Registrar As well, it can relate to all aspects of incoming students and services provided to them
- Admissions including recruiters aimed to recruit students
- Student orientation and First-Year Experience provides support and programming for first-year students, usually includes orientation and may include Parent and Family Relations
- Student Financial Aid assists students in financial matters including processing federal aid, payment plans and may include student employment
- Sports and recreation
Just like many professional fields Student Affairs have many organizations that unite and represent Student Affairs professions. Large organizations include National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and American College Personnel Association (ACPA). NASPA members are committed to serving college students by embracing the core values of diversity, learning, integrity, collaboration, access, service, fellowship, and the spirit of inquiry. As well, there are publications that relate to the Student Affairs field such as the Journal of College Student Development and The Chronicle of Higher Education. While large organizations exists there are smaller organizations and publications that represent various smaller departments or divisions in Student Affairs. For example in Residence life, university departments have a national organization association called the Association of College and University Housing Officers - International (ACUHO-I). ACUHO-I also publishes a peer-reviewed journal (The Journal of College and University Student Housing) twice a year and publishes a magazine (Talking Stick).
The field of Student Affairs has been criticized for its emphasis on formal, professional training, calling into question whether the field is theoretical or practical. Complicating this criticism is the question of the role of student development theories in student affairs practice. It is claimed that student development theories are used to “proactively identify and address student needs, design programs, develop policies, and create healthy...environments that encourage positive growth in students.” Yet, student affairs practices often bear little resemblance or connection to student development theories. As Paul Bloland (1979) wrote in an article in the NASPA Journal, “We have cultivated an expertise that was not requested, is not sought out, and for which there is little recognition or demand. Many entry-level and (many) seasoned professionals know little of student development theory and practice and, in fact, do not really need such expertise to meet the role expectations of their supervisors or, in too many instances, their institutions.” 
Another debate has centered on the degree to which available postgraduate programs actually represent a distinct discipline. While the field bears a resemblance to psychology, counseling, and other general concentrations, debate and criticism of the field's major foundations are virtually nonexistent in theoretical discourse, calling into question the academic credibility of the field. As Bloland, Stamatakos, and Russell wrote, while student development theory “...has been widely distributed through the literature, in preparation programs, at workshops and conventions,” academics and professionals in the field have, “...failed to exercise their critical faculties to raise questions about student development, to slow down the head-long pace of its engulfment of the field of student affairs, and to examine alternatives and opinions as they presented themselves.”
- Journal of College Student Development
- National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA)
- American College Personnel Association (ACPA)
- "NASPA Career in student affairs". NASPA Career in student affairs. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
- NASPA History. NASPA. Retrieved on 2008-6-26.
- Rhatigan, James J. (2000). The Handbook of Student Affairs Administration, The History and Philosophy of Student Affairs (2 ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 3–13.
- Cowley, W.J. (1934a). The History of Student Residential Housing, School and Society (40 (1040) ed.). pp. 705–712, 758–764.
- Lucas, Christopher J. (March 2006). American Higher Education, Second Edition: A History (2 ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.
- Evans, Nancy J.; Forney, Deanna S.; Guido, Florence M.; Patton, Lori D.; Renn, Kristen A. (December 2009). Student Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice (2 ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
- "Student Affairs professionals". Student Affairs professionals. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
- "ACPA Student affairs professional goals". Student affairs professional goals.
- "Student affairs educational degrees". Student affairs educational degrees. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
- "careers in student affairs". careers in student affairs. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
- Dungy, Gwendolyn Jordan; Komives, Susan R; Woodard, Dudley B, Jr. (2003). Student Services: A Handbook for the Profession, chapter: Organizations and Functions of Student Affairs (4 ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 339–357. ISBN 978-0-7879-6050-6.
- "About NASPA". NASPA. Retrieved 2007-09-09.
- "Education: The Candid Chronicle". Time. May 13, 1974. Retrieved March 29, 2010.
- "ACUHO-I". ACUHO-I. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
- Evans, N.J., Forney, D.S., and Guido-DiBrito, F. (1998) Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. pp 5.
- Bloland, P.A. (1979) “Student personnel training for the chief student affairs officer: Essential or unnecessary?” NASPA Journal, 17(2), 57-62.
- Bloland, Paul, Stamatakos, Louis, Rogers, Russell, & Clearinghouse, ERIC. (1994). Reform in student affairs. Caps Press. pp 14, 11.
- Barr, M. J., Desler, M. K., & Associates (2000). The Handbook of Student Affairs Administration. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- NASPA Standards of Professional Practice. NASPA. Retrieved on 2010-10-4.
- Basinger, J. (2003). More Power for Provosts. The Chronicle of Higher Education.