Jeff Meadors: Without guidance, many students fail

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

Academic advising matters.

Colleges and schools without strong academic advisement will lose in the end. They will lose students and completers.

With STEM cohorts, CTAE pathways, Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, Joint Enrollment, magnet and virtual school options facing them, students need guidance. I've met many students who have abandoned career dreams and changed life trajectories based on poor advisement. It doesn't have to be this way.

A new study on Pell Grant recipients proves my point. The federal government gives needy college students roughly $35 billion annually. More than 9 million students rely on Pell, but is it building a better workforce? Much of the money goes to people who never graduate.

Among 18- to 25-year-olds receiving Pell, only a fraction earn a bachelor's degree within six years; most are unprepared for college-level work.

Sandy Baum, an expert on student financial aid, argues that students get little or no guidance about what to study.

So why is it happening? Georgia legislators crafted House Bill 186 so that secondary schools and colleges would talk to each other, coordinate and work together to help students to complete college.

Math advisement, for example, is especially critical given Georgia's recent tryst with integrated math. Most schools are now phasing back to discrete math, but many students suffered.

Students find themselves with unimpressive SAT math results largely due to deficient trigonometric foundations sufficient to master SAT math. A good academic advisor understands high school and college curriculum, diagnoses the problem, coordinates with all who have an educational interest in the student, and facilitates academic support, even tutoring, to get the student on track.

The Bridge Act, House Bill 400, pushes K-12 students to explore career pathways. Without professional guidance, these students have no idea where career pathways lead them, and many tell me almost no one is helping them make sense of it all.

Colleges and secondary schools must work together to nourish the cohort pipeline from secondary to post-secondary school programs. When it fails to take place, as it often does, students lose. They drop out, fail to complete school and abandon dreams.

Colleges and schools offering highly effective academic advisement will retain students in important programs of choice.

It is not accidental that studies across the country show that dual enrollment students complete college at impressive percentage rates above their non-dually enrolled counterparts. The very essence of a dual enrollment program requires ongoing, often weekly, coordination between secondary and post- secondary educators and administrators.

Multiple sets of eyes are on these students, keeping a watchful gaze on course loads, current and future pathways, EOCTs, GHSGT, HOPE GPA, Miller Scholarship eligibility, weighting of courses, two and four- year programs of study, common course outlines, aptitude and interests, and changing legislation.

Whether they want to become dentists or welders -- and we need them all -- don't all students deserve effective guidance?

Georgia can ill afford more high school graduates all grown up with no place to go.

Jeff Meadors may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com.