JEFF MEADORS: Academic advising keeps the wheels in motion

Academic advising matters.

With Georgia colleges facing legislative impetus to tie funding to college completion advisement should take center stage.

Data shared by Florida National University capture the need: 75 percent of students enter college with no final decisions made about majors or careers. And 50-75 percent change majors at least once. One top reason students cite is a lack of information.

Researcher Alexander Astin studied 200,000 students at more than 300 institutions to learn what we all know qualitatively – academic advisement improves retention and better ensures student success. Astin concluded “student — faculty interaction has a stronger relationship to student satisfaction with the college experience than any other variable.”

Researcher C.L. Nutt calls advisement the “hub of the wheel.” Cornell University refers to advising as “making connections.”

A 2011 study by Kelly Pargett, University of Nebraska — Lincoln, found “the more a student and his or her advisor discussed personal and school-related issues, career options, college policies, academic deadlines, and study skills and tips, the more likely it was that the student positively developed and had a higher level of satisfaction with college.”

The Hechinger Report cited in press from Teacher’s College of Columbia University finds that community colleges on average have one advisor per 1,000 students; universities had one per 367 students in 2012.

It’s not enough.

Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce says “there’s too much wandering around … It makes sense that if you know where you’re going, you’re more likely to get there.”

I’ve reviewed data on excessive college credits earned for two and four-year degrees in past columns. It’s taking too many students too long to complete.

Quality academic advisement is particularly important for first-generation college students who often come from rural areas like Newton, Jasper, Butts, Putnam, Greene and Morgan counties where novice negotiation of the college scene is ominous.

As Georgia colleges tackle completion academic advisement must be front and center. All indicators show that poorly advised students take classes they don’t need, end up in college too long, and often drop out. Statistics show that most part-time college students never complete.

Completion loses momentum when students suffer from misdirection, a lack of individualized guidance, and opaque knowledge of the path ahead.

Georgia’s House Bill 400, the Bridge Act, has pushed k-12 students to identify and select meaningful career pathways yet that 75 percent figure above lack a plan once the tassels turn.

For colleges seeking higher rates of completion the message is clear: quality academic advising increases student success, improves retention, and positively impacts completion. Everyone wins, including employers and tax digests.

The marketplace and society benefit from a better educated citizenry. Students benefit at all educational levels when they have a trusted advisor on campus to whom they may turn for professional guidance and direction.

Beefing up advisement makes good sense, keeps the hub intact and the wheels in motion.

Columnist and educator Jeff Meadors may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com