Academic Advising Resources


Academic Advising as a Comprehensive Campus Process Series

Note:This is an article in a series celebrating NACADA 30th anniversary. In this series current NACADA members build upon the work done within the 1995 monograph, Advising as a Comprehensive Campus Process , as they highlight the important connections advisors make across campus.

Developing a Good Working Relationship with the Registrar's Office

Authored By: Maura M. Reynolds

Understanding the work of the registrar can help advisors make connections with this important office. In 2007, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) conducted a survey of registrars that among other thing, gathered information about the functions of their offices. Responses came from 521 member institutions including a mix of public and private 2-year and 4-year institutions.

26% of the respondents reported that their registrar’s office was part of a one-stop center for student services; half of the 2-year public colleges reported this was the case on their campus. Most often, financial aid, admissions, and bursar’s office were also included in the one-stop centers; 10% of respondents reported that the advising office was a part of their one-stop center.

•Respondents were surveyed about the functions for which their registrar’s office is responsible; of interest to advisors (apart from registration issues) are these functions:

  • Degree audit (79%)
  • •Master curriculum record of approved programs and courses (56%)
  • Coordination of catalog development (44%)
  • Institutional research (20%)
  • Advising (17%)

Not surprisingly, web-based utilities have affected how the functions of the registrar’s office are carried out: 83% of respondents indicated that some registration for classes is done via the Web. 75% of those who had degree audits reported that their computer-generated audit reports are web-based.

Almost 75% of registrar’s offices reported providing training about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and their registration system to faculty and staff.

50% of registrars who responded to the survey indicated that they report to the chief academic officer; other common reporting lines are to the chief student affairs officer (15%) or to chief enrollment officer (14%). (AACRAO, 2007)

Clearly, the registrar’s office is an important point of contact for students, faculty, and advisors.

On some campuses the families of dependent students may have access to their students’ record.e.g.,A number of functions handled by the staff of the registrar’s office directly affect advisors’ work. Accurate information about majors and requirements is essential for advisors and students. Degree audits, whether web- or paper-based, demand such accurate information. These audits can help students chart a path to their degrees and can give advisors much-needed time to talk with their advisees about issues other than requirements and registration, Advisors rely on the staff of the registrar’s office to assure that the requirements of FERPA and local practice involving student records are met,

As usual, communication between offices is the key to effective collaboration--and to improved learning for students. Perhaps staff from the registrar’s office could be invited to make a presentation at advising workshops or brown bag lunches; their expertise in working with the college or university’s registration system or in creating and maintaining degree audits could be shared with advisors for great benefit. A session on FERPA would also be helpful. Understanding the time line of the registrar’s office would be beneficial for advisors: When and how are students notified about registration, probation, and degree-completion issues? When and how are changes to the curriculum publicized? When is the academic calendar determined and the exam schedule set? And, how are these shared with the campus?

If the college or university has an advising council which meets periodically, inviting staff from the registrar’s office to be members of the council is a wonderful way to ensure communication and to build bridges in support of student learning and success.

Advising administrators would be well served by meeting with their registrar to discuss issues of mutual concern and to explore areas for collaborative action. Asking “What can advisors do to help the staff of the registrar’s office work more effectively?” is a great conversation starter. It would not be surprising for advisors to learn that some of the same challenges they face (students missing appointments or departments not keeping the office informed of changes, for example) are faced by the registrar’s office staff as well. If advising administrators take time to explain their needs and their mission, the registrar may gain greater understanding of the importance of advising and realize that enhanced technology (like degree audit systems, which are labor-intensive for the registrar to create and maintain) can help advisors “advise” rather than merely “register.”

For some, such communication may be fairly easy to facilitate, especially if the campus is small, if the registrar and the advising offices are part of the same one-stop center for student services, or if reporting lines are the same. Whether communication with the staff of the registrar’s office is easy or challenging to facilitate, direct communication between the personnel registrar’s office and the advising office is important for the success of advising and of students.

Understanding the organization of the registrar’s office can help advisors and students know who best to contact with concerns. As results from the AACRAO survey indicated, a significant number of registrar’s offices are part of a one-stop center--especially at two-year colleges. We might consider these one-stop centers in light of the 2006 Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CESSIE) as reported by Ashburn (2006) which indicated that students at two-year colleges rate their need for advising as high (higher even than their need for financial aid advising, tutoring or child care), yet many rarely or never meet with an advisor. That issue might be addressed by including the advising office with the registrar’s office (and others) in such a center. Given the family and work demands of many two-year college students, perhaps a convenient one-stop center could increase the use of advising services. Once again, establishing good communication with other campus office would be an essential foundation for developing such a center. 

Predicting future trends is dangerous, but it seems clear that technology will continue to shape the functions of the registrar’s office and academic advising. A part of the impetus for the enhanced use of technology in the registrar’s office may well have been to streamline operations (a good thing) or to decrease staff (a questionable thing), but the result for the registrar’s office has typically been not a reduction of staff, but the need for staff to have an updated skill set. As technology streamlines the process of registration and course selection, advising (at least as some imagine it) may seem irrelevant: how many faculty, students, and staff, for example, refer to “registration” or “class selection” as “advising”? Advisors themselves may be inadvertently responsible for some of this confusion: Do we refer to pre-registration appointments, for example, as “advising?” Using appropriate terms is the small first step to help colleagues and students understand what academic advising involves. Another is to communicate the importance of advising to others on-campus--and the registrar’s office would be a most important place to assert this. No degree audit or registration system can replace an advisor. As NACADA past-president Eric White (2005) reminds us:

What we must ultimately “teach” students (and, I would add, others and other offices on campus) is that academic advising is an on-going relationship; that while scheduling courses is part of the total endeavor, it is not the entire picture. The richness of academic advising lies in helping students grow intellectually and personally, assisting students as they make positive decisions that help them move forward in their lives, challenging students to stretch their strengths and experience new things, and use their time in the college as a learning experience (p. 2).

Lofty goals, these, and powerful ones which advisors see realized not infrequently. Are advisors communicating these to others on campus--to staff in the registrar’s office, the admissions office, to faculty, to students and their families? Do we make them priorities in our meetings with our advisees? The best way to teach the power of advising is to live it.

The registrar’s office plays a vital role on campus. Many of its functions impact advising directly. Establishment of a good working relationship with the staff of the registrar’s office means that we must increase communication and collaboration with the registrar’s office staff. This is important and achievable goal for advisors.

Maura M. Reynolds
Director of Academic Advising
Hope College


Ashburn, Elyse (2006). 2-Year-College Students Rarely Use Advisers, Survey Shows.The Chronicle of Higher Education (December 1, 2006) ) and retrieved March 24, 2009, from AACRAO Registrars Survey.American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. (2007).

White, E.R. (2005).Academic Advising News (28)1, retrieved March 24, 2009 from

Cite this using APA style as:

Reynolds, M. (2009). Developing a good working relationship with the registrar's office. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website:

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