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It’s the age old question in higher education: are the students the institution’s customers? According to one professor quoting Martin Buber, the philosopher, said students are absolutely not customers, but are “unfinished and unfulfilled beings who stand to gain from their teachers, whose intellectual maturity and depth of knowledge will inspire them beyond belief.”

In all work organizations, a basic tenet of understanding is that all work is a process. The educational process of teaching-learning is no less a process, built upon a supplier-customer relationship. Students have many options in today’s competitive environment and in order for a college to compete successfully, they must create an atmosphere that attracts and maintains students. A high-level faculty is part of this atmosphere; the way students are treated is also key to their experience.

Students are not customers in the retail customer sense, but are customers in an academic customer sense. How the college staff and faculty treat them may determine whether they stay or leave. With graduation rates as low as they are today, it would behoove many colleges to start looking at the “student experience” and how they can improve it.

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