Longer and more frequent advising sessions boost student retention

Students who receive frequent and meaningful advising sessions are more engaged and more likely to persist, finds a report by the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE).

CCCSE researchers administered the survey to 179,672 students from 297 colleges. Respondents were asked about their advising experiences and on-campus engagement. The researchers measured engagement by analyzing student behavior, such as active learning, effort, and faculty interaction.

Community colleges see greater student engagement when advisors and students have in-depth conversations about students' academic and professional plans, says Evelyn Waiwaiole, the executive director of CCCSE.

While the survey found that students who spend more than 30 minutes with an advisor are more likely to be engaged, only 16% of respondents had sessions that lasted more than half an hour. Similarly, students who met with an advisor twice or more were more likely to be engaged, but 36% of respondents met with an advisor only once during the semester.

Some colleges are beefing up their advising services to better support students, Ashley Smith writes for Inside Higher Ed.

Cleveland State Community College, for example, requires students to attend an advising session each semester. Since implementing the requirement in 2013, the college has seen its 3-year graduation rate increase from 14% in 2012 to 22% in 2013, Smith writes.

Mandatory advising helps students stay on track to graduate on time, says Michele Wollert, the coordinator of academic advising at Cleveland State. Before the requirement, "students [were] signing up for classes that were not part of their program," she explains.

Similarly, the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) hired nine full-time advisors in 2016 as part of their transition to a Guided Pathways model, Smith writes. After hiring the full-time advisors, CCP's first-time student year-over-year persistence rate climbed from 45% in 2015 to 51% in 2016.

Students who develop a relationship with a campus advisor are more likely to persist and graduate from college than students who don’t, writes Ashley Litzenberger a student success expert at EAB. Advisors that engage students in dialogue, take the time to build relationships, and celebrate students’ achievements can more effectively support students as they navigate difficult decisions, she adds.

The report identified one subset of students who experienced significantly better advising sessions: athletes. More than half of student athletes report being required to meet with an advisor before registering for classes, Smith writes. About 69% of returning student athletes met with the same advisor multiple times during a semester, compared to 55% of their peers.

The advising system for athletes could serve as a model for leaders trying to improve advising for all students, says Waiwaiole (Smith, Inside Higher Ed, 2/14; CCCES report, accessed 2/14).

Keep reading: 3 ways to make advising more meaningful

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