Academic Advising Resources


Implications for Advising Reporting Lines
Nancy King

In this chapter, I present implications and reflection questions based on survey responses about reporting lines for undergraduate academic advising. The reporting lines consisted of academic affairs, student affairs, academic and student affairs jointly, enrollment management, and the registrar.   

Implications for Advising
The majority of institutions with representatives responding to the survey place advising within academic affairs (57%) while the second most frequently utilized reporting line, according to the survey, is student affairs (21%), followed by academic and student affairs jointly (11%), enrollment management (7%), and the registrar (2%). The large percentage reporting to academic affairs reflects an increasingly accepted viewpoint that advising is teaching and is directly linked with the academic curriculum and practices within academic affairs.  For example, a growing number of institutions are creating an advising syllabus and identifying learning outcomes for advising, activities typical of those in academic affairs.

Although the size of the institution does not appear to influence where advisors report, institutional type does seem to dictate differences in reporting lines.  For example, according to survey respondents, advisors at bachelor, master, and doctoral institutions report through academic affairs. In some cases, especially at 2-year and proprietary institutions, however, advising is located within student affairs, as shown by respondents from these institutions. One reason for this arrangement may be related to the number and availability of faculty advisors.  For example, three fourths of respondents from institutions that use full-time faculty advisors (but not full-time professional advisors) report to academic affairs. However, that percentage drops to one half in institutions that employ full-time professional advisors or both professional and faculty advisors.  Also, at one tenth of institutions represented in the survey with an enrollment management or registrar office reporting line, advising is seen as an enrollment service rather than a part of the teaching mission of the institution.

The varied reporting lines may be the result of whether or not advising is mandatory on a campus.  If advising is mandatory, then advisors most often report to academic affairs. Where advising is not mandatory or is mandatory for only some students, slightly more than one quarter of respondents report to student affairs instead of academic affairs; however, where advising is mandatory, one tenth of participants indicated they report to student affairs.

Advising reporting lines may also be influenced by the type of advising organizational structure employed.  Centralized advising systems typically feature one reporting line. However, where advising is decentralized, there may be several reporting lines.  For example, advisors of students with declared majors may report to academic affairs, but those working in an advising center that serves undecided or exploratory students may report to student affairs or jointly to student and academic affairs.

Regardless of the primary reporting line for advising, the various institutional units must demonstrate a strong commitment for collaboration.  Certainly effective advising programs contribute to a climate conducive to student success, but advising is not conducted in a vacuum. All units must work collaboratively to facilitate student success.  The silo approach, which still exists on many campuses, with its clear division between academic and student affairs, does not promote a culture of student success.  In contrast, the partnership approach is far more likely to produce the desired outcomes. 

Survey results offer a good indicator of trends in higher education, but individual campuses must make decisions based upon the needs of their students and unique culture.  There is no reporting channel that is the best choice. Indeed a one-size-fits-all reporting structure should not be advocated. As with most decisions on organizational structure, administrators must consider several matters when selecting where advisors should report. For example, they need to look at the campus culture, as well as the mission and structure of the advising program, before deciding upon or changing the reporting lines for advising.  Regardless of where advisors report, however, most important are an ongoing assessment of the model used and an awareness of the need to cross reporting lines in a collaborative approach to student success.

Questions for Reflection
The following questions may help administrators contemplating the reporting lines of advising:

  • Because of the institution's type and size, the personnel who advise, and the status of advising as mandatory (or not), what is the rationale for selecting a particular reporting line for academic advising?
  • Is advising viewed primarily as teaching or as a service?
  • What is the organizational structure of the advising program?
  • As shown by assessment data, is advising accessible and helpful to students in its current location?
  • Can changes in the reporting structure of advising be justified?

Cite using APA style as:

King, N. (2011). Implications for advising reporting lines. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website:

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