Joel Carr, Gayle Juneau, Nancy Markee, and Margaret Pentecost, Advising Administration Commission Members
Higher education funding issues are front page news in many states. Governors and state legislatures have been faced with unprecedented declines in state revenues as the result of the global economic recession. Prah (2009) estimated that states faced an estimated $215 billion in budget gaps for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. Keller (2009), reporting on the results of an Association of Public Land-Grant Universities survey, noted that administrators at more than 55% of the 188 member universities thought that cuts in state appropriations harmed their ability to sustain student services. As state budgets decrease and endowments shrink, advising administrators face difficult student services and staffing decisions. Here we focus on how institutions in two states are handling these budget shortfalls.
Institutions that are part of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) have experienced twenty plus percent budget cuts over the past two years. The impact has included elimination of open positions, the introduction of employee furloughs, increased class sizes, reductions in student services, and elimination of academic programs. During this same time period, undergraduate enrollment numbers increased at both the University of Nevada Reno (UNR) and the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). This is at a time when Nevada is projected to have the greatest growth in high school graduates of all states over the next ten years.
The guiding principle in determining budget cuts at UNR has been minimizing the overall damage to the university. When budget cuts resulted in the closure of the University’s Career Development Center, responsibility for career services shifted to each academic college. Budget cuts also resulted in the loss of centralized pre-professional advising services. This has especially impacted students and faculty advisors within health-related areas. Faculty advisors are currently working with student leaders to ascertain the most viable mechanisms for providing assistance to students seeking entrance to health-related professional programs.
While UNR student services provided by the Writing Center, the Math Center, and Tutoring have been eliminated, reduced, or are now available on a fee basis, the university continues to place increased emphasis on retention and the role quality academic advising plays in student persistence, success and timely graduation. Some support services have been partially restored through increases in student fees. However, other retention initiatives have been added to advisors’ responsibilities. Elimination of academic programs has required advisors to work closely with students currently enrolled in impacted majors to develop viable plans for degree completion or to assist in the selection of acceptable alternative programs of study.
At UNLV the student to academic advisor ratio had been a relatively manageable at 1:700. As advisors leave the university, the hiring freeze has prevented filling vacant positions. As a result, the wait for advising appointments is longer and advising appointments are shorter; the focus of these appointments is shifting. It may seem an oxymoron that as advisor-student ratios increase, critical emphasis is placed on the implementation of retention-based programs. Still, there is growing anxiety among academic advisors about their professional futures. Academic advisors sense that their positions are vulnerable; should administrators need to choose to eliminate a position, advisors feel that faculty will more likely be retained.
In Texas, state agencies, including public colleges and universities, experienced a five percent budget reduction in 2010 and additional budget reductions are expected. Haurwitz (2010) noted that some higher education institutions responded by laying off staff. At Angelo State University (ASU), a primarily residential university with approximately 6,400 students, budgets have tightened and academic advising has been reorganized. Rather than downsizing, ASU committed to the expansion of academic advising.
Through a student instructional enhancement fee, academic advisors were added to the university’s staff. Academic advising moved from primarily a departmental faculty advising model to a college specific advising model. This restructuring resulted in an overall increase of five professional advisors at ASU. With the exception of a few professional programs (e.g., nursing, social work, and graduate programs where departmental faculty continue to provide academic advising) advisors are now assigned to the various colleges and perform advising duties once provided by the faculty. In addition, ASU continues to maintain three centralized university advisors for undeclared students.
These moves demonstrate ASU’s commitment to academic advising, and more importantly, student success. Moreover, the reorganization of academic advising at ASU allows faculty to engage in increased research activity, develop new teaching strategies, and enhance mentor relationships with students. It is believed that such a move will help Angelo State University increase enrollment and retention during these fiscally trying times.
As we face difficult financial times, it is incumbent that advising administrators enhance campus awareness of the value of academic advising, advocate for resources to meet student needs, and maintain staff morale to provide high quality advising services for our students. Advising administrators must balance the immediate crisis with strategic and sustainable solutions for long term survival and success in challenging times.
Joel L. Carr
Social Work Program Director and Assistant Professor of Social Work
Department of Psychology, Sociology, and Social Work
Angelo State University
Executive Director of Academic Advising
Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
University of Nevada-Las Vegas
Nancy L. Markee
Director of the Academic Advising Center
Coordinator of Undergraduate Advising
University of Nevada, Reno
Margaret W. Pentecost
Assistant Dean of Education Student Services
College of Education and Human Development
University of Louisville
Angelo State University. (2010). About ASU. Retrieved from www.angelo.edu/asu_facts/index.html
Haurwitz, R. K. M. (2010, June). Prospect of more budget cuts worries Texas higher education leaders. Retrieved from www.statesman.com/news/local/prospect-of-more-budget-cuts-worries-texas-higher-731084.html
Keller, C. M. (2009). Coping strategies of public universities during the economic recession of 2009: Results of a survey on the impact of the financial crisis on university campuses. Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. Retrieved from www.aplu.org/NetCommunity/Document.Doc?id=1998
Prah, P. M. (2009, August 18). Budgets overshadow social, political highlights. Stateline.org. Retrieved from www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=419704
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. (n.d.). Angelo State University institutional profile. Retrieved from http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/lookup_listings/view_institution.php?unit_id=222831&start_page=institution.php&clq=%7B%22first_letter%22%3A%22A%22%7D
Cite this article using APA style as: Carr, J., Juneau, G., Markee, N., & Pentecost, M. (2010, September). Advising administration at a time of financial crisis. Academic Advising Today, 33(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]