posted on September 01, 2003 01:01
William P. Fleming, Sam Houston State University
Something had to be done about the advising practices at Sam Houston State University. In the years before research and scholarship became focal faculty achievements, students were assigned to faculty advisors across campus. But the days when faculty could devote the time necessary to adequately advise students were soon over. As the emphasis on research increased, faculty service areas became back burner items. This shift occurred even as it became increasingly apparent that we must provide closer and more intrusive advising for students struggling in their college courses.
Encouragement from the Administration
Talk of the need for an advising center circulated among faculty, but no changes occurred. Then a new Vice President for Academic Affairs came to Sam Houston, bringing with him the knowledge and desire for an advising center. Even so, financing was unavailable until the new Sam Houston president placed funding forefront in talks with Faculty Senate. Spurred by these talks, a committee was appointed to research Sam Houston student fees as compared to fees charged at other Texas universities. This group discovered that Sam Houston had some of the lowest overall fees in the state.
To provide students with quality advising services, we needed to find funds beyond those appropriated by the state. In our comparisons with other universities—even those of a similar size student-body within our system—we found that many increased fees, charged additional course fees, or charged advising fees.
The Proposal for an Advising Fee
In February 2002, a recommendation was submitted to the president advocating various additional fees including a designated Advising Center Fee. Rationale for this fee included the complexity of academic programs and the regulations associated with certain degree requirements. The advising fee would defray the costs of advising with income used to pay the wages of the staff associated with the University Advising Center and the costs of center operation.
The committee cited fees at comparable institutions including the University of Texas where various amounts are charged for advising--from $50 to $135 per semester or $36 to $101 per summer session--depending on the student's major, classification, and college affiliation. We proposed a $50 per semester / $25 per summer session advising fee per student.
Convincing the Students of the Need
Now came the challenge. Strategy talks began when the president stated that he would formally propose increased fees to the Board of Regents only if fees garnered student approval. We knew: (1) many students, perhaps even a majority, had experienced poor advising; (2) advising was mandatory for at least 1/3 of students (below 2.5 GPA, no SHSU GPA, TASP restrictions); (3) students, no matter how familiar they were with the catalog, did not know the intricacies of curricula; (4) many students did not know how to interpret degree plans; and (5) students doing poor academic work needed special advising. With these thoughts in mind, we approached the Student Government Association with the largest fee increase ever proposed.
Fee proposals were presented at four Student Government assemblies by the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Chair of the Faculty Senate.
At each meeting, the floor was open for questions. Some students suggested that they should be able to self-advise using the catalogue. Others countered that self-advising would be impossible for transfer students designing a degree plan with course substitutions. Many could take courses they didn’t need. Other students noted that they were frustrated when their advisors were unavailable and had nowhere to turn; this was particularly true for students affected by mandatory advisement. Some questioned an advising fee for graduate students, since they are advised in their individual colleges, and suggested that graduate student advising fees be used to promote various graduate programs.
Approval of the Fee
The Student Government approved the fees. Although the vote was not unanimous, students recognized the need and accepted the proposed solution. Board of Regents approval took place in May 2002, and the Advising Center became a reality. Completely financed by the Advising Center fee, the Student Advising and Mentoring Center (SAM) now serves Sam Houston undergraduates.
Want to know more about funding and staffing of the Student Advising and Mentoring Center? “Financing an Advising Center by Using Student Advising Fees,” will be presented as a concurrent session at the 2003 National NACADA Conference (Friday, October 3, 8:45 a.m.).
William P. Fleming
Sam Houston State University
Cite this article using APA style as: Fleming, W. (2003, September). Moving toward funding an advising center using student advising fees. Academic Advising Today, 26(3). [insert url here]