Anthony Tricoli, President, Georgia Perimeter College
Editor's Note: As members of the NACADA Board of Directors, the AAT Editorial Board, and the Executive Office staff have talked with our membership around the globe, it has become clear that we share a common concern about the pressures that we all face in the current economic climate. We open this edition with the positive, constructive measures that have been taken at Georgia Perimeter College to ensure the success of the academic advising program at that institution. Then we'll hear a variety of perspectives on this topic from our membership.
As we celebrate NACADA's thirtieth anniversary, it seems appropriate to stop and reflect on the impact of academic advising on student success. NACADA's leadership in this critical component of student success has led to remarkable changes in the field, including the establishment of a professional code of ethics, best practices and research, as well as providing venues for professional development for all constituencies.
College presidents recognize the significance of academic advising as part of the health and vitality of the college communities they serve. This is a broader responsibility than simply enticing students to enter and matriculate through our hallowed doors. Enrollment is the first step in a partnership between students and the academic institution, and presidents recognize that academic advising is critical to increasing retention, graduation and transfer rates.
In difficult economic times, many citizens turn to colleges in their communities for assistance with retraining and updating their credentials. These individuals can be especially at-risk because they are primarily non-traditional students and they may lack the requisite skill set to succeed in an environment which is new to them. Those who are unable to successfully navigate the bureaucracies for which many higher educational institutions have become known may drop out. This not only negatively impacts the economic future of our students; it also erodes the economic stability of our communities. Families suffer due to the loss of income. Communities suffer due to the loss of future services, credentialed workers, and a decreased tax base. We all suffer from a loss of educational role models. There are also increased public costs in social services and crime-related expenses when students do not complete their education. In short, failure to assist students to succeed in college can have a profound and negative rippling impact on the community at large.
Since many students are at great risk of dropping out before reaching their goal of graduation or transfer, it is not enough to simply provide access to higher education. Once students are admitted, the institution is obligated to provide support to enhance their chances of success in college. In the words of Vincent Tinto (2008), 'Access without effective support is not opportunity.' Academic advising is part of a critical web of college success tools that must be employed by colleges and universities in configurations that fit their institutions' unique culture and demographic needs.
At Georgia Perimeter College (GPC), we have morphed and expanded academic advising from the traditional centralized service model to a hub and spokes model. Faculty advisors share responsibilities with professional counseling staff in response to data that we have examined regarding the special impact of faculty relationships on students' positive retention outcomes. At GPC we live by the NACADA motto: "Advising is Teaching."
Academic advising is a vital component in GPC's strategic plan; as such the college has increased its emphasis as well as its resources for training and development of faculty advisors. One example of this increased emphasis is GPC's outstanding Master Faculty Advisor Program. These Master Advisors facilitate professional development for all faculty advisors at each of our five campus locations. They have also developed a virtual advising community where faculty can connect across the vast distances between campuses of our urban multi-site institution. These Master Advisors also serve as an institutional resource to college governance bodies in the area of student success.
GPC also took a bold step and became the first academic institution in Georgia to participate in the Rapid Process Improvement Initiative (RPI) in partnership with Georgia's Office of Customer Service. Cross functional teams of faculty and staff identified significant touch point opportunities with students to ensure those moments provide value to our students. A 'New Student Orientation' session was restructured to provide students with critical information they need to begin their careers successfully at GPC.
The RPI also streamlined the advising process for our learning support students, who comprise 24% of our student body. Learning support students now receive ongoing, in-class advising from faculty. This targeted ongoing support helps our students stay on track and successfully transition into collegiate-level work.
Multiple benefits have been generated from the innovations produced via faculty participation in the RPI process. They identified and eliminated the challenges of finding the information they need when advising students. To address information issues, our faculty developed a 'Two-Click Toolkit' Web site to provide quick access to the information faculty advisors need the most, interactive programs of study that could be saved for future advising sessions and advising training modules that deliver professional development on high interest topics.
In short, GPC's faculty, staff and administrators have improved many aspects of advising and orientation in the RPI process which consisted of five intensive week-long working sessions. This work has revolutionized advising services at GPC. (Please look for our presentation on this topic at the 2009 NACADA Annual Conference in San Antonio).
However, training and streamlining processes alone are not enough to guarantee improvement of advising services. At GPC, we are moving to include assessment and incentives for advising services to continue to improve academic advising to students. Student input is an important element of measuring our success as is data collection and tracking the efficacy of these advancements in advising practice. These data will be utilized to make future improvements in advising services at the college.
Now more than ever, colleges need to find creative ways to enhance student success. While we are all chanting the 'do more with less' mantra, we must also continue to invest in student retention. Student retention is always a cost benefit analysis winner. For the community, the academic institution and mostly for our students, retention is a triple win.
College presidents are fortunate to have NACADA serving as a vital partner to institutions of higher education with their dedicated staff; high-quality state, regional and national conferences; advising database; and fine media support systems including the Web site, publications and webinars. We recognize NACADA's achievements in raising academic advising standards, developing professionalism and encouraging advising research.
I am pleased that Georgia Perimeter College and NACADA share the same goal: student success. We look forward to many productive years working together to enhance academic advising, as we increase the retention, graduation and transfer of Georgia's students.
Georgia Perimeter College
Tinto, V. (2008, June 9). Access without support Is not opportunity. Inside Higher Ed . Retrieved April 10, 2009 from www.insidehighered.com/views/2008/06/09/tinto
Cite this article using APA style as: Tricoli, A. (2009, June). Reflections from a college president: When access is not enough, or the significance of academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 32(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]