Rutgers University Senate Committee on Instruction, Curricula and Advising

 Report on Student Advising Services
 Executive Summary

See Also Appendix D

Report on S-9912:  Review resources currently available for student advising, including those provided by departments, schools or colleges, Career Services and Psychological Services.  What types and how many staff/faculty are available for advising?  What types of advising are carried out, and by whom (faculty, staff)?  How are advisors providing information on course selection, major requirements, post-graduate opportunities?  How are advisors receiving their own training?  At what stage of their academic careers do students avail themselves of these services?  Are electronic media being efficiently utilized to provide advising?  Make recommendations for improving academic advising, publicizing its availability, and encouraging students to make better use of these services.  This charge should be coordinated with the Academic Services Committee of the New Brunswick Faculty Council, which has considered a parallel charge, and units on Camden and Newark campuses, as appropriate.

Academic Advising:

The importance of advising services in the academic environment has been supported in the literature and in Rutgers' own internal studies.  Academic advising is the one process that virtually every student participates in during their college career, and the one that requires the regular personal interaction between faculty or staff and students that is considered a critical component in long-term retention.Rutgers' own studies have shown that students who withdrew from Rutgers consistently reported a lower rate of faculty interaction than those who graduated,2 and that a significant percentage of users were not satisfied with the quality of their advising experience.

The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) has developed the accepted national standards for academic advising in higher education.  NACADA standards are grounded in the tenets of developmental advising in which the advisor acts as a teacher/mentor rather than just a conveyor of information or advice relating to general requirements or curricula.  Thus the NACADA Standards and Guidelines state that:

 The primary purpose of the academic advising program is to assist students in the development of meaningful educational plans that are compatible with their life goals.
The Process:

Over the course of the Spring 2002 semester and into the Fall 2002 semester, the Committee

Advising Goals
 "The institution must have a clearly written statement of philosophy pertaining to academic advising which must include program goals and expectations of advisors and advisees."4

While the University does include "academic advising and acting as a mentor" as part of ‘Teaching' in its "Criteria for Appointments, Reappointments and Promotions" in University Regulations and Procedures [Section 3.3.18a], neither Rutgers as an institution, nor most of the individual school or colleges, seem to have developed formal statements of an academic advising philosophy, or a coherent set of program goals and expectations.

Without some consensus as to the philosophical basis of academic advising and program goals, there can be little consistency in the provision of advising services university-wide or even within a single unit.

Who Advises?
 "The academic advising program must be staffed adequately by individuals qualified to accomplish its mission and goals.  The academic advising program must establish procedures for selection, training, and evaluation of advisors, set expectations for supervision, and provide appropriate professional development opportunities."5
At Rutgers, general (pre-major) advising falls under the purview of the student's college or school; once a student declares a major they are normally assigned/expected to meet with a departmental advisor.

As part of their study, the Academic Advising Task Force surveyed the Deans of eleven Rutgers units responsible for admitting first-year students6 and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in New Brunswick.  The Task Force also held five focus groups comprised of a total of 30 first-year and transfer students representing all three campuses and eleven different academic units.

As reported in the Deans' survey, at most Rutgers units general (pre-major) academic advising is done by a core group of administrative/professional staff augmented by faculty advisors. A number of the Deans listed inadequate staffing and the difficulty of getting enough faculty advisors as a major weakness of the current advising program.  Students also noted feeling rushed by advisors, and experiencing difficulty in scheduling appointments with an advisor.  The issue of advisor availability is an especially critical one as studies have shown that perception of advisor availability is one of the critical factors in determining student levels of satisfaction with advising.

Despite the recognized need for additional advisors, no college/school seems to have any formal recruitment program except for the recruitment of peer advisors.

Training and Professional Development

At Rutgers five of the twelve units surveyed had some formal training program for general (pre-major) academic advisors.  These ranged from an annual three-hour training session (College of Nursing) to an annual three-day session (Livingston College).

Student focus groups noted inconsistencies in levels of advisor knowledge and skills; a number of the deans also noted problems with advisor proficiencies and the need for more extensive training.  A move to developmentally-based advising would make the issue of training/retraining even more critical as this would be a new concept for many advisors.

 "The academic advising program must have adequate and suitably located facilities, technology, and equipment to support its mission and goals. Facilities, technology, and equipment must be in compliance with relevant federal, state/provincial, and local requirements to provide for access, health, and safety."7
The Committee endorses the two major recommendations included in the Task Force Report:
 Task Force Recommendation 3:  Investigate the use of web-based advising assistance for ALL colleges (technological capabilities defined and implemented on university level with flexibility for college-specific applications).  Attention should be given to leveraging the use of computing resources and offering students some consistency of service.  For example, creating a single web-based point of contact for students that would provide general information and allow links to college/major-specific information.
The Committee would further note that all advising services need to be better integrated; both students and advisors need easy access to information concerning career and general counseling services. Any central advising services site should, at the very least, be available from both the "Current Students"and the "Faculty/Staff"sections of the University home page.
 Task Force Recommendation 4:   Implement a University degree check system to allow for better coordination between departments and students/colleges, and up-to-date monitoring of the academic career by students and academic advisors.
There is no question that the implementation of a University degree checking system would be highly beneficial to students and advisors alike.  Except for NCAS in Newark which implemented a degree audit system this Fall, there is no college/university mechanism for monitoring individual student progress towards graduation.  However the acquisition of such a system should be seen as not just a convenience to individual students and academic advisors, but something that could significantly impact the institution by helping to ensure that more students would be able to progress in an orderly fashion toward timely graduation..

Best Practices

The Committee concurs with

 Task Force Recommendation 5:  Identify internal "best practices" within current advising programs as well as external practices identified through the benchmarking study. Establish forums for discussion and dissemination of best practices.
Internally, Livingston College in particular should be commended for its academic advising efforts.  Externally, the Task Force identified a number of interesting approaches taken at other institutions which might be considered for implementation at Rutgers.  For example, the creation of a Transfer Center such as the one at Washington State University might be very useful for Rutgers' colleges with large transfer student populations.

Other Task Force Recommendations

The Committee does not endorse the following Task Force recommendations:

Task Force Recommendation 8:  Develop a regular segment for RUTV that features faculty talking about particular disciplines, courses and potential careers to provide more detailed information about available areas of study.  Allow students to call in.  Stream live over the web with e-mail link.  Archive the "interviews" and make them available to the students on an on-going basis.
While the Committee found this to be an interesting idea, most members were not convinced that such segments would attract a large enough audience to make a "call-in" show viable.  In addition, it should be pointed out that RU-TV is only available on the New Brunswick campus.
Task Force Recommendation 9:  Work with Retired Faculty Association to assist with the advising process.
The Committee found this recommendation problematic.   Retired faculty may not be familiar with current requirements and programs. In addition utilizing retired faculty in this process would seem to be contrary to the goal of creating a bond between student and current faculty that has been identified as important for effective advising.

See Also Appendix D


        1It has been shown that regular faculty contact results in better integration into the university community, reduces attrition, and generally contributes to a positive undergraduate experience.  Astin, A.W. (1993). What Matters in College? Four Critical Years Revisited.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass; Pascarella, E.T., and Terenzini, P.T. (1991). How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; Habley, Wesley R. (1981). "Academic Advising: The Critical Link in Student Retention."  NASPA Journal 18, 45-50; Light, Richard J. (2001).  Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press; (Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition. 2nd edition.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

        21995 Former Student Opinion Survey.  []

        3Pursuing Excellence in the Undergraduate Student Experience:  Assessing and Improving Advising.  Final Report, April 29, 2002.  Prepared by the Center for Organizational Development and Leadership with the Guidance of the Academic Advising Task Force.  []  The Academic Advising Task Force was formed in the Fall of 2000 in response to a series of surveys done by the Office of Institutional Research and Planning which found that 29% of graduating students, 22.8% of continuing students, and 36% of discontinuing students were not satisfied with their academic advising experience at Rutgers.

        The Task Force focused specifically on academic advising for first-year and transfer students.

        4"Part 1: Mission," NACADA Academic Advising Standards and Guidelines.

        5"Part 5: Human Resources," NACADA Academic Advising Standards and Guidelines.

        6Camden College of Arts and Sciences, Cook College, College of Nursing, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Douglass College, School of Engineering, Livingston College, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Newark College of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers College, University College.

        7"Part 7: Facilities, Technology, and Equipment,"  NACADA Advising Standards and Guidelines.