About Student Affairs

Student affairs is a critical component of the higher education experience. The work done by student affairs professionals helps students begin a lifetime journey of growth and self-exploration.


Student learning doesn’t only happen in a classroom. Opportunities for teaching and development exist everywhere on campus, and it is the responsibility of student affairs professionals to seize these moments and promote positive interactions. Encouraging an understanding of and respect for diversity, believing in the worth of individuals, and supporting students in their development are just some of the core concepts of the student affairs profession.

NASPA understands the importance of student affairs work and provides opportunities for our members to continue to expand their knowledge and skills.

The Student Affairs Profession: Foundational and Guiding Documents

To understand the field of student affairs and the role of the profession in promoting student learning and development, it is important to examine the historical roots of the field - once known as student personnel administration and now referred to as student affairs - and reflect on the mutual influence exercised between institutions of higher education and the broader society. The documents included on this webpage provide an excellent reading list for those interested in tracing the development of the student affairs profession and seeking to identify both foundational themes that have stood the test of time (for example, the value placed on developing the whole student articulated in the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View) as well as more recent professional developments that reflect emergent priorities (e.g., the 2015 ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators). The foundational and guiding documents compiled on this webpage do not simply serve to remind us of our history; they are also intended to be living documents that can be used in our current institutions and associations to teach the principles and values of the student affairs profession.

Here are a few suggestions for incorporating these documents into individual and organizational professional development efforts:

  • Facilitate a discussion on one or more of the documents with undergraduates considering a career in student affairs.
  • Include the documents in a reading list for those interested in the field, such as interns or mentees in the NASPA Undergraduate Fellow Program (NUFP) or student affairs paraprofessionals such as resident assistants and peer mentors.
  • Assign the documents as readings in student affairs graduate courses and encourage students to critically reflect on the continued relevance of the texts.
  • Include the reading and discussion of foundational documents in new employee orientation. This may be particularly helpful for employees who do not have an educational background in student affairs/higher education.
  • Utilize the documents as a framework for a student affairs professional development curriculum, staff meetings, retreats or programs.
  • Draw upon the documents (e.g., CAS Standards ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators) for the development of position descriptions as well as individual and organizational evaluation processes.
  • Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators, 2015

    In August 2015, the NASPA Board of Directors and the ACPA Governing Board approved the Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators to assist in the design of professional development curriculum with focused learning outcomes. This was an update to the competency document first published by NASPA and ACPA in 2010, which defined a set of competencies student affairs professionals could use to assess areas of future growth and learning.

    The Professional Competency Areas are intended to define the broad professional knowledge, skills, and, in some cases, attitudes expected of student affairs professionals. All student affairs professionals are expected to be able to meet the foundational outcomes of each competency area, regardless of how they entered the profession. The intermediate and advanced levels of the competencies provide areas for continued growth and development of professionals in the field. The ACPA and NASPA Professional Competencies Rubrics Task Force has also developed a rubrics document to complement the update to the professional competencies. Student affairs professionals are encouraged to utilize the competencies in ways that may include but are not limited to:

    • Developing a personal training and development plan
    • Designing a training and development plan for supervisees or an entire student affairs division
    • Developing position descriptions based on the professional competencies
    • Using the professional competencies as a framework for annual evaluations
    • Presenting student affairs awards for competency growth and/or excellence

    For more ideas on using the professional competencies, or to share your unique ideas with others, please visit the Professional Standards Division blog.

    ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies Rubrics

  • Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education

    This organization was formed in 1979 and today represents 42 higher education and student affairs professional organizations, including NASPA. According to its mission, “The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), a consortium of professional associations in higher education, promotes the use of its professional standards for the development, assessment, and improvement of quality student learning, programs, and services." The first set of functional area and academic preparation standards was published by CAS in 1986 followed in 1988 by a Self-Assessment Guide for each of the functional areas. The standards were created to encourage the profession of student affairs to examine its focus on learning and development of students within each unit on campus. CAS Standards are often used in program design and evaluation, as well as assessment of student learning.

    CAS Standards, originally published in 1986

    CAS currently has standards for 45 functional areas within higher education and student affairs. To order a copy of the current standards for your functional area, please visit the CAS website.

    CAS Self-Assessment Guides, originally published in 1988

    The Self-Assessment Guides were created as companions for the CAS Standards to assist professionals in assessing organizational effectiveness as well as developing action plans for improvement. CAS Self-Assessment Guides can be purchased online.

    CAS Statement of Shared Ethical Principles, 2006

    Based on a review of member organization ethical codes and standards of ethical conduct, CAS created the Statement of Shared Ethical Principles which emphasizes seven principles: autonomy, non-malfeasance, beneficence, justice, fidelity, veracity, and affiliation. The full statement can be found here.

  • Task Force on the Future of Student Affairs, 2010

    Student Affairs has always been situated within the needs and demands of society. In this vein, NASPA and ACPA jointly sponsored a task force to examine the current and foreseeable societal trends that would have an influence on the profession. The document created by this task force outlines the implications of the following areas: globalization; increased demand for higher education; gaps in educational attainment and achievement; expanding technologies; economic fluctuations and higher education. To review these implications, how they intertwine with the learning from the past, and suggestions for the future of the field, please download the report:

    Download the Report
    Download the Appendix

  • Learning and Assessment Reconsidered

    Learning Reconsidered, 2003

    Learning Reconsidered argues for the integration of all higher education's resources in the education and preparation of the whole student. The publication, an effort co-sponsored by NASPA and ACPA, re-examines widely accepted ideas about conventional teaching and learning and questions whether current organizational patterns in higher education support student learning and development in today's environment. This landmark publication builds upon historical student affairs statements that focus on student affairs as a profession. This document is available for purchase and/or download:

    Purchase from the Bookstore
    PDF Download

    Learning Reconsidered 2, 2006

    Learning Reconsidered 2 is a blueprint for action, showing student affairs professionals how to create the dialogue, tools, and materials necessary to put into practice the recommendations in Learning Reconsidered. This companion book, an effort co-sponsored by NASPA and ACPA, brings together new authors, discipline-specific examples, and models for applying the theories discussed in Learning Reconsidered. The authors challenge student affairs professionals to move beyond traditional ideas of separate learning inside and outside the classroom, focusing instead on developing the whole student. This document is available for purchase here.

    Assessment Reconsidered, 2008

    In response to continuing external demands for higher education to provide evidence of student learning, the authors of Assessment Reconsidered promote “the shared ownership of assessment planning among faculty, student affairs educators, administrators and students.” This project, undertaken by the International Center for Student Success and Institutional Accountability (ICSSIA), promotes a collaborative approach between all higher education facets to build institutional capacity for evidence-based, reflective practice focused on student success. Assessment Reconsidered can be purchased here.

  • Powerful Partnerships: A Shared Responsibility for Learning, 1998

    In response to the need for deeper learning to prepare college graduates for the work force, AAHE (American Association for Higher Education), ACPA, and NASPA established a joint task force to examine learning. The task force authored this report, which outlines 10 principles of learning and how to strengthen it on our campuses through partnerships across academic and student affairs divisions. Each principle is illustrated by a set of exemplary cooperative practices between student and academic affairs in order to promote higher student achievement.

    Download the Report

  • Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs, 1997

    In response to the Student Learning Imperative paradigm shift which encouraged student affairs educators to focus on learning, NASPA and ACPA published the Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs. The document outlines seven principles for advancing student learning and includes inventories designed to offer student affairs professionals a tool for implementing positive learning environments.

    Download the Report

  • The Student Learning Imperative, 1996

    In response to calls for accountability to demonstrate the impact of student learning in higher education, ACPA published The Student Learning Imperative to encourage student affairs professionals to recognize their contribution to learning. The document examines the important role student affairs plays in creating an environment that motivates and inspires learning in and beyond the classroom. The full report can be found here.

  • Reasonable Expectations, 1995

    In response to the changing demographics of students, increasing enrollments, and other societal influences, Reasonable Expectations addresses what students and institutions should reasonably expect from each other in the learning environment. The authors, George Kuh, James Lyons, Thomas Miller, and Jo Anne Trow, as representatives of NASPA, divide these expectations into five categories: teaching and learning; the curriculum; institutional integrity; the quality of institutional life; and educational services. For each of these areas, a pair of complementary propositions is presented which express the reciprocal expectations of institutions and student; the propositions are followed by questions to help determine whether these expectations are being met.

    Download the Report

  • Standards of Professional Practice, 1990

    Endorsed in 1990 by the NASPA Board of Directors, the Standards of Professional Practice are an agreed upon set of ethical and professional standards. NASPA provides these to its members to use in developing their own codes and guides for their work.

    Download the Standards

  • Perspectives On Student Affairs, 1987

    Written in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View, this statement is intended to promote a greater understanding of student affairs among leaders in higher education.

    Download the Report

  • Student Personnel Point of View, 1949

    As the student personnel field continued to be influenced by new political and societal realities, the American Council on Education (ACE) revised the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View to incorporate a new philosophical basis for student personnel work as well as detail the elements of a comprehensive institutional program.

    Download the Report

  • Student Personnel Point of View, 1937

    In response to the need to define student personnel work on campuses, the American Council on Education (ACE) convened a two-day conference that led to the publication of the original Student Personnel Point of View. The document provides a comprehensive overview of student personnel work, describes the relationship of student personnel work to other administrative and instructional functions, and demonstrates the need for intentional and empirical practice.

    Download the Report

  • Research on Student Affairs Foundational and Guiding Documents

    Student affairs educators interested in learning more about the field’s foundational and guiding documents are encouraged to review the following scholarly sources:

    • Evans, N. J. & Reason, R.D. (2001). Guiding principles: A review and analysis of Student Affairs philosophical statements. Education Publications, 42(4), 359-377.
    • Schwartz, R. & Dafina-Lazarus, S. (2017). The history of student affairs. In J. H. Schuh, S. R. Jones, & V. Torres (Eds.), Student services handbook: A handbook for the profession (6th ed.) (pp. 20-38). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Voices of Student Affairs

What is Voices of Student Affairs?

The "Voices of Student Affairs" series will rotate on the NASPA website reflecting student affairs professionals sharing their voice on why student affairs is the profession for them. From graduate students to new professionals, faculty members to senior student affairs officers, all these individuals are united with one common theme, a passion for our profession and the institutions and students we serve. We invite you to submit your voice of student affairs and answer our rotating questions. Please see below for the current question to which we are requesting answers.

Current Question: Why did you choose a career in Student Affairs?