Student governments differ in college and high school

March 27, 2023

In recent times, the concept of a ‘student government’ at American public schools has become predominant. Many schools now possess student leadership bodies which serve as advocates of student interest and voice, as well as form a link between student bodies and school administrations. In some school districts — Cherry Hill among them — student governments may be found at both the middle school and high school level. In addition, student governments have become a major part of higher education, common in American colleges and universities. For students leaving Cherry Hill High School East behind and entering higher education, the differences in the role of student government may surprise them.

To begin, many universities possess multiple student governments, often dealing with separate colleges within them. At the University of Pennsylvania, for example, separate student government bodies exist for the Perelman School of Medicine, Carey Law School and the general undergraduate student body. The existence of multiple SGAs within universities is a result, of course, of universities’ multi-faceted student groups and educational fields — something which most high schools, including Cherry Hill East, lack on the structural level.

One of the first words to spring to mind when one considers a government of any sorts is ‘constitution’. Indeed, publicly accessible constitutions and bylaws are common in major college and university student governments. A constitution or mission statement for student governments may be found on nearly all college websites, free and open for anyone, even people non-affiliated with the college, to view. By contrast, this is not often the case with high school student governments across the country. While some possess easily obtainable constitutions or guidelines, others do not. Here in Cherry Hill, the SGA does not possess a constitution readily accessible to all students.

Finally, colleges and universities generally possess student governments with far more capability and resources in contrast to high school representative bodies. For example, the University of Pennsylvania’s student government homepage states that the “Penn Student Government (PSG) reaches many corners of student life, from funding hundreds of student groups, to planning social events, guest speakers, and concerts, to advocating on behalf of students on academics and other issues, and ensuring that all voices—particularly the under- and mis-represented ones—get heard by the administration.” This description includes certain clauses alien to many high school student governments, including the East SGA. Funding for student groups at East is done usually independently of the SGA. And while East’s SGA is most definitely involved in its diligent organizing of social events, concerts and guest speakers are not usually the norm. The majority of this divergence may be explained by the more limited resources and latitude of students and representative bodies in high school as opposed to those of universities.

All in all, graduates from East and other high schools nationwide who are headed to higher education have one more thing to look forward to amidst many novelties in their new lives: their student governments are to be different from those they are leaving behind

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