More Frequent, Intensive Advising Cranks up Student Engagement

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When Georgia State University added 42 academic advisers, it cost the institution an additional $2 million each year. However, reported Tim Renick, vice president for enrollment management and student success, the investment paid for itself, "because the increased retention rate meant more revenue for the school." Graduation rates there grew by more than 20 percentage points in just over a decade, including among students of color; now Black and Hispanic students graduate at rates comparable to or higher than those of White students.

Georgia State's story features in a new report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, as an example worth the attention of two-year schools. "If community colleges want to increase student engagement, one place to start is by examining the foundation of academic advising," said Evelyn Waiwaiole, executive director of the center.

To put data behind the impact of advising on retention and engagement, the center surveyed about 180,000 students at 297 colleges around the country. The survey was issued in paper form in the spring semester during class to students enrolled in randomly selected credit-bearing courses. (A parallel survey was given to 9,577 faculty at 86 colleges.) The final report, "Show Me the Way: The Power of Advising in Community Colleges," found that overall, students who get more time in advising with more in-depth discussions during their advising sessions are more engaged in community college.

Yet, the survey also found that the content of those advising sessions varies widely among students. While a majority of students (62 percent of first-termers and 78 percent of returning students) do meet with an adviser, most of those sessions are focused on figuring out what classes they need to take for their educational goals. While two-thirds (65 percent) also said advisers helped them create academic plans, just over half (53 percent) were also able to discuss their commitments outside of school. And most (65 percent) didn't discuss scheduling for a follow-up advising session. (Read More...)