Lion Scouts Tour Guides To Be Paid Starting Summer 2023
If you’re a current or former Penn State student, you’ve undoubtedly crossed the street in a hurried panic to avoid an oncoming, sidewalk-swallowing tour group to make it to class on time.
Despite the minor inconvenience, tours and the guides who run them are an integral part of the college admissions process. However, all three Penn State tour guide groups have gone unpaid until now.
Penn State is currently the only school in the Big Ten that doesn’t pay its tour guides, but new directives from the school’s administration paved the way for a transition that will make tour guides an official paid university job.
“Campus visits generally and tours specifically are a crucial part of the college decision-making process for prospective students,” Kate Kishbaugh, associate director of undergraduate admissions, said. “Paying tour guides is industry standard in higher education.”
According to Lion Scouts’ current President Will Marsh, the decision to pay tour guides was spurred by the hiring of Matt Melvin as the vice president for enrollment management, a new position that will prioritize enrollment management as a key function across Penn State’s 24 campuses.
“It was [Melvin] that came in and decided that he wanted to revamp things,” Marsh said. “But the decision is largely due to the way things are moving in general across the U.S. with tour guides.”
Current tour guides will be given priority status in the new hiring process as the plan unfolds. Any current tour guide that wishes to remain a tour guide will not be turned away by the university, but they will have to obtain the proper clearances and go through the standard Penn State onboarding process before becoming a paid tour guide.
“A paid tour guide model allows for more consistency in recruiting, hiring, training, and scheduling,” Kishbaugh said. “This also allows Penn State to improve our visit opportunities for prospective students by keeping tour group sizes smaller and allowing for a wider variety of tour times.”
According to Marsh, switching from a student-run organization to a university-run program will make the tour-guiding process smoother.
“They’re hiring students and just like other campus jobs, students are expected to work. It’s the same thing as if you’re working in a dining commons,” Marsh said. “If you don’t show up to a job shift, you’re at risk of being let go. I think that’ll really help with figuring the whole thing out, instead of counting on someone to show up, you’re expected to show up.”
According to an email obtained by Onward State, Penn State plans to hire 70 to 90 tour guides for the upcoming fall semester, a number smaller than the approximately 120 current Lion Scouts members. With graduations, leaves of absence, and losses due to the large time commitment that being a tour guide requires, Marsh estimates that the number will be able to accommodate all returning tour guides.
The transition, like every decision, doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Since the admissions department will be taking control of the process, the Lion Scouts organization in its current capacity will come to an end.
Lion Scouts will no longer be considered an affiliate organization and will have to transition to either a Recognized Student Organization or a special interest THON organization, both radically different from the current club structure.
“It’s hard to see an org that I worked so hard for potentially go away,” Marsh said. “I’ve spent the last two years on the executive board, and I’ve invested four years in the org. A lot of people are seeing it as a loss, but I’m trying not to look at it that way.”
As of now, there are no concrete plans for the organization beyond this semester, however, a group of students is interested in carrying on the Lion Scouts name.
Despite the changes, Marsh believes that it will ultimately benefit future tour guides.
“Tour guides are passionate about the university, they’re passionate about what they do here, and so their goal is to persuade other people to come here and share in the passion that they have,” Marsh said. “Obviously, with any change, you’ll have some pushback and resistance, but that’s kind of what you have to roll with.”
Penn State is planning a soft rollout of the paid model during the upcoming summer semester, with a full launch planned for the fall 2023 semester.
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