In tough economic times, higher education administrators are obliged to seek cost-saving measures and/or to conduct cost-benefit analyses of programs. Academic advising programs have often been the targets for such reviews. Academic advising administrators, therefore, must be prepared to respond to these challenges before they occur.
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Research and best practices in academic advising can be valuable to new and veteran advisers looking to improve their effectiveness in serving students. However, if academic advising as a profession is to realize its deserved value and status on our campuses, we must find ways to spread the good word about advising to faculty, administrators, and decision-makers beyond the existing advising community. As Richard Light, in his book Making the Most of College (2001) stated, “good advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience” (p. 81). Academic advising plays an important role in student success and retention. Therefore, we must strive to collaborate and build partnerships to further research and assessment and spread the good word about academic advising to the broader higher education community.
The issue of student retention and persistence has continued to grow in importance throughout the history of higher education in our country. Early studies (Astin, 1977) focused on the characteristics of those students who did not persist. Beginning in the 1970s, the research began to focus on the reasons students remained enrolled and how colleges and universities could make changes or develop programs to increase the retention of their students.
A university's senior leadership cannot interact with every student as much as we would like to. Our best course as a university is to maintain a strong academic institution and to support advisors and advising programs. As a public university whose mission is improving the economic and cultural life of our state, we depend on the important contributions academic advisors make to student success.
It is well known that retention of every student is simply not possible. As academic advisors we understand that, for some students, transferring or stopping-out is a legitimate strategy for attaining long term personal or professional success. Yet, on many campuses, talk of retention focuses on retaining “all” students. As a result, some colleges have developed overly-broad retention strategies that disjoint campus units and ignore the role of identity in the retention of at-risk ethnic and cultural minorities. A more effective alternative is the development of a focused retention framework that utilizes assessment to identify those most at risk for early institutional departure and then seeks to develop culturally relevant programmatic interventions for their success.
As greater numbers of students enter our institutions, retention and ethical service to these students become even larger issues. Bradburn (2002) indicates that approximately one-third of entering students leave our institutions without a credential; these numbers are even higher for minority (Hodge & Pickron, 2004) and community college students (ACT, 2005). Although current scholarship (Lotkowski, et al. 2005) on academic retention shows that a relationship with an academic advisor helps to increase retention, many students do not take advantage of this resource.
Academic advisors play many roles as students progress through our institutions. Helping students increase their levels of positive self-reflection can help students increase the expectations they set for themselves and lead students to regularly view themselves as positively engaged and academically talented. Positively engaged students leave advising sessions reflecting on their strengths rather than focusing on their deficiencies....Strengths-based advising can help advisors focus on students’ strengths. When we implement an advising model best suited to students’ strengths, we increase students’ chances of success at our institutions.
As the nation continues down a turbulent financial path, we will undoubtedly be called upon to justify our advising programs and the impact our programs have on student success and student persistence. We have shown, and we can continue to show, the tremendous impact academic advising has on all aspects of the student experience.
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.
As our collegiate communities contemplate revenue shortfalls and endowment shrinkages, many of our students are facing financial concerns. Regardless of external situations, it is incumbent that PDR advisors remember that the student is the heart of the educational enterprise.
When academic advisors create partnerships with secondary school stakeholders, the results are far-reaching...
As advisors, it is important to consider the culture of the out-of-state student population at our institutions. Are out-of-state students a minority population? What are the retention rates of these students? Are there any current programs or initiatives that exist to support out-of-state students? By answering these questions, advisors can determine if this programming model can be adapted to fit the needs of their institution.
As I learned more about Proactive Advising, I found that I could apply it in all areas of advising: retention, at risk student advising, critical outreach points, and student communication and difficult situations.
A key tool in facilitating dialogue among faculty, students, and advisors is an effective early alert process, which provides a communication channel among the three parties.
Although it is an academic advisor’s responsibility to participate in retention efforts, it is not possible without collaboration. Retention is everyone’s job.
Advisors recognize that students with different enrollment patterns may have different goals and need different types of support. Knowledge of these enrollment patterns can influence conversations with students to help create both short- and long-term plans.
Application of a strengths model to academic advising can focus on students applying their talents and strengths to academic courses, study techniques, and major exploration.
Currently trending at many institutions, early-alert programs have become institutional priorities to improve student retention. It is imperative to note that regardless of the technological platform used to drive these retention initiatives, there is a human factor that proves vital in this process.
When not addressed, shame can be a saboteur silently leading students away from an institution.
During the summer, the staff of Academic and Career Development at IUPUI works closely with other institutional offices to offer two-day orientation programs for incoming first-year students.
Students sometimes find themselves trapped in a state of existence where they feel their voice is silenced and they experience a sense of helplessness. Academic advisors may find that employing the six stages of the Public Achievement model can empower students who find themselves in this “Sunken Place.”
Just as we expect our students to fulfill the promise they made to the institution by working hard toward graduation, we as an institution must strive to fulfill the promise we make to every student that, regardless of the difficulties they face academically or personally, we will help them reach graduation and develop into mature, intellectually curious and capable adults.
Research suggests that mental health and academic performance are positively correlated. Advisors are not expected to provide mental health counseling to students, but they would be remiss to ignore the impact of psychological issues and mental health on students’ experience, performance, and success. While treating students for mental health concerns may be beyond advisors’ scope, there are some ways in which they can address the issues.
Nontraditional student enrollment continues to make up a large portion of undergraduate student populations on both traditional college campuses and in the distance-learning sector. Institutions that wish to retain and help their adult learners be successful will need to be aware of the nontraditonals’ time and effort limitations and provide ways to support them academically to facilitate completion.
The high-involvement intervention model encourages developmental advising by providing students with an opportunity to gain knowledge and maintain ownership of their decisions and experiences, while at the same time allowing advisors to become an integral part of student success and development.
By accessing available student data store in institution’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, the athletics department at Nicholls State University was able to share with the coaching staff important and time sensitive information at critical and relevant points in the semester. In an effort to replicate the athletics department success, an initiative began to implement this strategy within an academic college, where data points were accessed and then reported to department chairs and faculty advisors to provide relevant data for a more intrusive advising approach with students who appear on these lists.
When academic advisors collaborate with institutional research professionals on their campuses for such an endeavor, it is important to move beyond the data which is readily available to institutional researchers to find sufficient data points for academic advisors to determine where to focus their student mentoring efforts.
With the student at the center of The University of Texas at Tyler’s efforts, Persistence and Retention Teams have been implemented to streamline employee communication to diminish the silo effect and find resolutions to student issues as efficiently as possible.
For decades, higher ed institutions have been pondering how to improve retention and degree completion rates. And yet, in spite of all kinds of programs and centers and initiatives, few have really moved the needle much in the right direction. In the search for the easy answer to a complex question: How can we help our students persist?, institutions have overlooked the fact that we have been asking the wrong question all along. The revision should read: How can we help our student persist? And we need to ask it thousands of times.
Two of the greatest barriers to implementing high-quality early intervention programs are the challenges of generating faculty buy-in and determining a reliable set of predictors. Advisors may be uniquely qualified to serve as intervention agents due to the relationships they form with students, often beginning at orientation.
Academic advisors are witnessing a growing population of students that identify as first generation. These students need validation that they belong in a university setting and that their degree is attainable.
On campus, student retention is everyone’s responsibility, and over the last decade, early alert initiatives have become incredibly buzzworthy. The authors offer reasons why academic advisors are best suited to respond to early alert notifications with at-risk students.
The emphasis on retention has become an even greater focus and concern for many institutions across the country as students question the logistics of attending classes in the midst of a pandemic. The why statement challenges students to think about their purpose and their motivation to pursue their declared major.