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Report of the PQO Task Force on Advising:

Report of the PQO Task Force on Advising:

The University Advising Plan
A Comprehensive, Collaborative Proposal

March 1998

Overview

Executive Summary

  1. Introduction - Setting the Stage
    1. Purpose
    2. Statement
    3. Charge
    4. Advising as a Crucial Component of Enrollment
      1. National Retention Advising Research
      2. MSU Retention and Advising Research
      3. MSU Surveys
    5. Existing Advising Process
      1. Existing Departmental Advising Plans
      2. Existing General Studies Advising Services
      3. Advising Support Programs

  2. The Proposed University Advising Plan
    1. Advising Goals
    2. Definition of Advising
    3. Student Advising Needs
    4. Components of the University Advising Plan
      1. Departmental Advising Process
      2. Advising Council
      3. General Studies Academic Advising Center
      4. Student Development and Learning Center
      5. Assessment of the University Advising Process

  3. Recommendations

  4. Financial Implications

  5. Implementation

  6. Appendix
    1. Charge
      1. Productivity, Quality and Outcomes Agreement (PQ&O)
      2. Charge from the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs to the Implementation Committee and the Academic Advising Task Force
      3. Montana State University-Bozeman Long-Range Plan
      4. Accreditation Standards, Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
    2. MSU Surveys
    3. Literature


Executive Summary

The University Advising Plan (UAP) is presented by the Academic Task Force in response to the charge to improve the quality and accessibility of academic advising at Montana State University - Bozeman. The development of the Plan took into account Board of Regents directives, accreditation standards, the Long-Range Plan and other applicable documents. National research and local survey data were used to determine advising needs and goals.

The proposed UAP builds on existing processes and resources to propose a more clearly defined and integrative advising system offering increased access and quality to students. The UAP will develop enhanced opportunities for academic achievement to a diverse student body and will encourage students to become progressively more responsible for their own learning and achievement. A major initiative in the plan focuses particularly on connecting the first-year student to Montana State University-Bozeman. The implementation plan considers broad assessment of advising to be an integral part of the process.


I. Introduction - Setting the Stage

A. Purpose

The purpose of this document, the University Advising Plan (UAP), is to offer a comprehensive collaborative advising model, implementation strategies and assessment activities in response to the charge given to the Productivity, Quality & Outcomes (PQ&O) Implementation Committee and the Advising Task Force in order to improve the advising system at Montana State University-Bozeman. The UAP builds on the existing strength of the faculty advising model and provides supplementary services in the areas where concerns have been well documented. Student survey data, governing directives and institutional needs have been considered.

B. Statement

Spend some time on a college campus, any campus, and you will soon hear the words "Academic Advising" and "Retention." They surface in discussions, heated conversations, explanations, planning meetings, complaining sessions and budget deliberations. Students, faculty and staff, administrators, parents and regents participate in the conversation. It is clear that complex variables, personal perceptions and multidimensional perspectives all play a role in defining the issues. It is also obvious that any process of communal problem solving will depend on the initial acceptance of a common language and on the articulation of the nature and mission of the institution, the goals and objectives of the process and the rights and responsibilities of the participants. When these are thoughtfully considered, as is proposed in this document, the positive results contribute to the continuous improvement model benefitting the student, the institution and society at large.

C. Charge

In 1996, the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the request of the President and the Provost appointed the Productivity, Quality and Outcomes Implementation Committee with the charge to address each of the nine goals in the PQ&O document. This document is a partnership agreement between the Governor's office, Board of Regents, Commissioner of Higher Education and Montana State University - Bozeman. Subsequently the advising Task Force was formed to address Goal 2: "Enhance the quality and accessibility of advising."

This report from the Advising Task Force, in response to the charge from the PQ & O document, addresses strategies for improving the quality and accessibility of academic advising at MSU. The Advising Task Force consisted of the following members:

  • William Neff, Arts & Architecture (Media & Theatre Arts)
  • Cliff Montagne, Agriculture (Plant, Soil & Environmental Sciences)
  • Chris Lamb, Business
  • Larry Baker, Education
  • Robert Carson, Education
  • Walter Fleming, Letters & Science (Native American Studies)
  • Ernest Vyse, Letters & Science (Biology)
  • Nancy Chandler, Nursing
  • Denny Klewin, Dean of Students
  • Kirk Bixler, Residence Life
  • Courtney Stryker, Graduate Student
  • Doug Martin, ASMSU
  • Kristy McFetridge and LeeAnn Fox, Septemviri
  • Margaretha Wessel, General Studies, Chair

In light of the foregoing charge, plus other goals including the upcoming accreditation process, the Long Range Plan and the recent inclusion of advising in the annual review process, the Advising Task Force presents the Proposed University Advising Plan.

D. Advising as a Crucial Component of Enrollment

1. National Retention and Advising Research

Educators and the general public alike view a four year college degree as an important measure of success and occupational attainment. Student persistence is critical in obtaining a college degree and it is an important criterion by which success in college is measured (Passarcella and Terenzini, 1991). Student persistence and degree attainment are also important determinants of economic success for institutions of higher education. Attrition (student dropout) has significant consequences not only for students who depart prior to degree attainment, but also for the institutions from which they depart. Student attrition directly impacts institutions of higher education by the loss of tuition income and with the additional costs of recruiting new students.

College student departure in higher education has been a subject of considerable research over the past twenty years. Nearly 39% of all students leave institutions of higher education without receiving their four-year degrees (Cuseo, 1991). According to Tinto (1993), "More students leave their college or university prior to degree completion than stay." About one half of all students who drop out of college do so during their freshman year; many leave during the first six to eight weeks (Noel, 1985). Understanding voluntary student departure is central to the study of the college student experience (Braxton, Vesper, and Hossler, 1995).

The underlying strength of American higher education is based on the intrinsic value of education to our society. The total returns from higher education in all aspects exceed the cost. The returns to individuals include higher incomes, more satisfying jobs, better care of health, greater consumer and investor efficiency, and more fruitful leisure. The returns to society include higher productivity, higher tax contributions, greater citizen participation and more tolerance among groups (Kerr, l997).

It follows then that retention and degree attainment have a lasting impact on the individual, the institution, and on society as a whole. Current research on retention indicates that complex variables affect a student's departure from the institution. One clear link which has been identified as of primary importance is the quality of the contact with the faculty in the classroom and during formal and informal advising discussions. Quality connections to the faculty determine to a great degree the satisfaction and success of the student with the institution. National leaders in retention research such as Tinto, Astin, Noel and Levitz, Upcraft, and Pascarella & Terenzini, all single out quality academic advising as a primary determinant of persistence.

Leading researchers and experts in academic advising such as Virginia Gordon (Ohio State) and Wes Habley (ACT) show that improvements in advising systems, incorporating essential elements, result in substantial increases in student retention.

2. MSU Retention and Advising Research

On the institutional level, concerns about retention have been addressed periodically at MSU. Although with diminishing state support tuition income becomes ever more important, the primary impetus for retention improvement comes from concerned individuals who are aware of the advantages of improved retention rates for the individual student and the institution. A list of retention efforts and studies testifies to numerous attempts to address the problem areas. Two substantial campus-wide improvement efforts were initiated in this decade.

A campus-wide Retention Committee was constituted in 1991, with its report and recommendations presented to the President. Recommendations focused on the concept that retention is a collective responsibility and that Tinto's model of departure could be used to initiate a serious institutional research effort, including a common instrument for evaluating advising. It assigned major retention responsibility to the Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs. The report also supported the development of Freshmen Seminars as retention tools.

In 1994 Dr. Noel from Noel & Levitz and Associates, national consultants on enrollment management, was brought to campus to make recommendations on how to increase enrollment and retention rates at Montana State University. In his report to President Malone, Noel pointed out that "Montana State University currently has an attrition rate of 30% from freshman to sophomore year. While this is below the national average for open enrollment schools, it is higher than schools which have the same academic profile as MSU. I believe that over time you can increase your enrollment by 500-700 students by bringing your attrition rate into line. Given the demographics and the competition with which you are faced, a significant commitment of resources will be required to make this happen." The report also recommended increased research on why students stay or depart, improving academic advising, increased attention on first year students, and offering Freshmen Seminars to all incoming students.

3. MSU Surveys

A number of surveys have provided MSU with concrete data regarding retention and satisfaction. The results of advising questions and comments are excerpted in the appendix to provide the context for efforts to improve the advising process.

  • Survey of Non-Returning Students - 1990

  • Academic Advising Survey - 1997

  • Senior Surveys - Classes of 1995, 1996, and 1997

  • Alumni Surveys - Classes of 1991, 1992, and 1993

On the Survey of Non-Returning Students, 25% indicated that inadequate academic advising was a major or minor reason for not returning the next semester; 75% found this not to be a reason.

The results of the 1997 Academic Advising Survey show a number of areas--such as discussing internship and employment opportunities in the field, encouraging academic achievement, and the quality of the advising experience--in which students indicated a large percentage of "not helpful" responses.

Senior Survey results (1995, 1996, 1997) indicate that 70% of the graduating seniors are very satisfied or satisfied with the quality of advising in the major, and 30% are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

Alumni Survey results (5 years after graduation) show the quality of academic advising as 40% good or excellent, 35% average, and 25% not very good or poor.

E. Existing Advising Process

Academic advising at MSU has traditionally been the role of the faculty in the colleges and in General Studies. A number of academic and student affairs support services exist to provide the best opportunities for success for students. However, the changing climate and demographics in the institution have impacted the quality and accessibility of the advising process with teachers, advisers and support personnel, leaving students with an increasingly complex world but less guidance and mentoring in negotiating that world.

1. Existing Departmental Advising Plans

During the Fall 1996 semester, each department at Montana State University was asked to submit a comprehensive advising plan which addressed fifteen critical advising issues. A total of twenty-nine plans were returned and reviewed by the members of the Advising Task Force. The following section provides a summary of the departmental advising plans and highlights the general trends evidenced across each of the twenty-nine plans.

Advising Goals:

As part of the assessment process, each department was asked to articulate the advising goals for their advisement process. The quality of each goal statement ranged widely from department to department; however, most advising plans tended to fall into three categories. A majority of the departments had clearly stated goals which were developmental in nature and specified clear outcomes for their students. As one very student-centered department stated:

In accordance with its mission, the primary advising goal of [this department] is to provide students with a system of developmental advising opportunities which enable them to engage in and take responsibility for their personal and professional strategic planning.

Other departments outlined goals which encompassed the basic principles of the advising process and a few departments limited their stance on the purpose of advising to a simple statement regarding function and process. For example, one department's goals indicated more of the function of an adviser rather than the purpose and outcomes of their advising process:

The advising goals for [this department] are to provide each advisee with a full-time faculty academic adviser who supplies timely, informed, and effective advising throughout the student's matriculation period.

Number of advisees:

After a review of each advising plan, it is clear that there exists an inequitable distribution of advisees. The number of advisees varies widely from department to department and among individual faculty members. To illustrate this disparity, one department has a student to advisor ratio of eighty-two to one while other departments report having a one to one or, in some cases, a zero to one ratio. The campus-wide mean for student to adviser ratio is approximately thirty-eight to one.

Summary:

Common positive themes:
» clear commitment to advising majors
» fulfilling curriculum requirements was a major advising goal
» 4-year guarantee process in place
» informal evaluation process
» departments generally felt they had a good or excellent advising process

Common negative themes:
» advisee-adviser ratio (Departments range from having 1 advisee per adviser to 82 students per adviser. The mean is about 38:1)
» lack of university support and acknowledgment of departmental advising
» lack of university reward structure for effective advising
» too many other professional expectations

Common omissions:
» general consensus on the purpose and goals of advising
» strategies for advising freshmen
» a formal and equitable evaluation process for advisers
» knowledge of internship and research opportunities
» knowledge of career-related information and connections
» systematic training for new advisers
» formal recognition of effective advising in the promotion & tenure and merit process
» interest in providing advice on elective choices
» systematic approach to advising and referring students in academic difficulty
» interest in addressing students' personal issues affecting academic performance
» constructively addressing students' doubts regarding choice of major or institution
» assessment of effective advising process in general

2. Existing General Studies Advising Services

General Studies is a non-degree program especially designed to provide regular academic advising services for undergraduate students who are exploring curriculum choices, and to represent the interests of these students in all administrative, curricular, and student services areas of the University. In addition, General Studies administers several special programs: Freshmen Seminars, Health Professions Advising, National Student Exchange, and Academic Advising Support Services.

The General Studies Program provides comprehensive advising services for undeclared students and serves as a "de facto" advising center for all questions and concerns anyone may have. One third of the incoming freshmen declare General Studies as their initial choice and approximately 20% of the advising services take place with students who are not coded into General Studies. The 30- plus sections of the Freshman Seminar Course provide quality structured advising opportunities.

In the last few years advisee/adviser ratios in General Studies have increased from 300:1 to 400:1.

3. Advising Support Programs

These programs operate within parameters of their specialized functions and therefore are called on to provide accurate advice. They are located in academic areas or in the Division of Student Affairs.

  • Health Professions Adviser
  • Honors Program Advisers
  • Native American Studies Adviser
  • Athletic Academic Coordinator
  • Resource Center Counselors
  • Advance By Choice Counselors
  • Financial Aid Counselors
  • Residence Life Academic Learning Center
  • Dean of Students
  • Psychological Counselors
  • Other

II. The Proposed University Advising Plan

The purpose of the University Advising Plan is to propose an advising structure which builds on existing strengths and to integrate all appropriate components and resources for an effective, comprehensive approach to student and institutional advising needs. The plan delineates responsibilities, devises strategies which emphasize synergistic relationships between programs, students and faculty and proposes cost effective recommendations for implementation.

The strength of the MSU advising system has always been the commitment and concern of the faculty, and any future plan must continue to build on this foundation, strengthening the connections and addressing the barriers. At the same time no plan can be effective if contemporary knowledge about student development theory is not incorporated.

In the proposed University Advising Plan therefore, academic advising remains the responsibility of faculty in the departments and of General Studies advisers. However, it is recognized that students have multiple developmental advising needs and that close collaboration between academic and student support areas is the crucial link to ensure continuous improvement in our advising system.

A. Advising Goals

Basic to the development of an effective institutional advising program is determining what should be the goals of the advising process. The following goals have been established by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA):

  1. Assisting students in self-understanding and self-acceptance (values clarification, understanding abilities, aptitudes, interests, and limitations).
  2. Assisting students in their consideration of life goals by relating interests, skills, abilities, and values to careers, the world of work, and the nature and purpose of higher education.
  3. Assisting students in developing an educational plan consistent with life goals and objectives (alternate courses of action, alternate career consideration, and selection of courses).
  4. Assisting students in developing decision-making skills.
  5. Providing accurate information about institutional policies, procedures, resources, and programs.
  6. Making referrals to other campus or community support services.
  7. Assisting students in evaluation or re-evaluation of progress toward established goals and educational plans.
  8. Providing student information to advisers and departments.

B. Definition of Advising

There probably are as many definitions of academic advising as there are advisers. At MSU this difference in opinion became obvious in the advising plans submitted by the departments to the Advising Task Force.

Generally, faculty unfamiliar with student development theory want their interactions to be strictly focused on academic goals and requirements, while others are more comfortable addressing, or at least acknowledging, the broad range of events in students' lives that may impact their academic performance.

At a minimum, the faculty component must include a certain level of availability, knowledge of university policies, procedures and requirements, academic requirements and opportunities in the curriculum, the career connections of the discipline and current information on referral resources available to students.

The student component must include taking responsibility for their own learning and goals, keeping track of their requirements and initiating contacts with advisers or other appropriate members of the academic community. They must make and keep appointments and be prepared for advising conferences.

Definition:

Advising is a dynamic process for obtaining the critical information students need to make the most important decisions about college; decisions affecting academic majors, career goals, elective courses, secondary fields of study, and co-curricular activities and life planning. Advising is an integral part of teaching; it is the opportunity to encourage students to engage in a systematic, strategic planning process and to take responsibility for their personal and professional development. The strength of academic advising lies in the commitment of faculty advisers to serve as mentors, to be accessible, and to be a source of information and encouragement in the advising process. Academic, intellectual and developmental needs of the students are considered (Adapted from Crockett).

C. Student Advising Needs

  • Freshman:
    • Period of great transition and adjustment; most critical phases of college student advising
    • First six weeks are critical in terms of academic and social integration
    • Need help formulating educational and career goals
    • Important to become familiar with university resources, policies and procedures
  • Sophomore:
    • Important to assist students to be engaged, interested and excited about the learning process
    • Concerns about changing majors, schools, "stopping out" or dropping out
    • New student transfers often arrive on campuses
  • Junior:
    • Less concerned with schedule planning and procedures
    • Need information on activities, internships, practicums; how to integrate theoretical and practical competencies
    • Eager to integrate academic plans with career plans
    • Need help in establishing and visualizing career/occupational goals
    • May need to reevaluate major choice
  • Senior:
    • Capstone year-integrating intellectual and social experiences
    • Graduation audit
    • Provide resources on resume writing, interviewing, job searching
    • Prepare for transition to "real world"
    • Solicit professional references

D. Components of the University Advising Plan

1. Departmental Advising Process

  • Update departmental advising plans with goals and objectives as basis for departmental process.
  • Develop clearly stated departmental curriculum requirements and advising materials.
  • Designate a head adviser, as well as option advisers and a freshman adviser.
  • Encourage faculty to attend advising and career workshops and take advantage of other opportunities to improve the advising process.
  • Provide advisers with access and training for the on-line Student Information System.
  • Advise declared majors, transfer students, 4-year guarantee students and declared minors.
  • Advise on academic progress:
    • Review "on course" or curricular requirement form.
    • Review substitutions.
    • Advise for upper division entry requirements (if applicable; and positive referrals for students who are unable to achieve upper division status).
    • Review subsidized credit limitations (e.g.,170, 150).
    • Review scholastic/probation process.
    • At mid-semester, use D & F list and mid-semester check-list for students in academic difficulty.
  • Refer students to academic and student services if needed.
  • Provide discipline-based career advising.
  • Discuss expanded academic and career opportunities; such as Honors, UGSP, Internships.
  • Provide a clearly articulated assessment and evaluation process.
  • Have advising evaluation as a component of the promotion, tenure and annual review process.
  • Develop College/Department Freshman Seminars as an opportunity to incorporate advising and retention issues.
  • Provide encouragement to faculty for mentoring students.
  • Bring advisee/adviser ratios which are out of balance to the attention of Deans and Advising Council.
  • Make suggestions to the Advising Council regarding informational needs.
  • Keep Advising Council informed of curricular changes & special courses which impact students.

2. Advising Council

It is proposed that the Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs form an "Advising Council" whose primary purpose is to focus its deliberations and recommendations on improving the advising process campus-wide. Membership will be drawn from faculty advisers, students and appropriate Assistant Deans Council members. This Council, familiar with student and institutional concerns, serves the unique purpose to address a wide variety of problems which affect students directly or indirectly. The Advising Council will be advisory to the Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs.

3. General Studies Academic Advising Center

In light of the results from student surveys and from advising and retention studies, the need for integrative and accessible advising services, particularly for freshmen, is acute. Therefore, build on the existing expertise in General Studies by expanding the program to include an Academic Advising Center. The General Studies advisers are well respected for their effective advising. Because students and faculty know its reputation, the office has served as the "de facto" advising center for many years. It particularly serves those students who need advice on Core Curriculum requirements, elective course choices, decisions regarding "major" changes and questions on scholastic progress. Advisers in General Studies are already knowledgeable about developmental advising, understand the broad range of curricular opportunities and requirements, are committed to integrating the students into the intellectual community of learners and recognize the importance of academic goals and achievement.

Mission:

The mission of the proposed General Studies Academic Advising Center is to augment, particularly during the Freshman year, the departmental and General Studies advising process, by providing assistance to students and faculty concerning university resources, requirements, policies, procedures, referrals and opportunities. In addition, the Academic Advising Center provides support and information to the Advising Council, which will coordinate and assess the University advising efforts. The Academic Advising Center will encourage the maximum use of technology for the purpose of student advising.

Functions:
  • To provide easy access, in person, by phone or electronic means, to students and faculty who need information or assistance.
  • To advise on Core Curriculum policies, procedures and courses.
  • To clarify departmental requirements and policies.
  • To explain university policies and procedures.
  • To discuss scholastic progress questions and offer strategies to improve academic achievement.
  • To refer students to appropriate support services.
  • To make students aware of expanded academic opportunities.
  • To encourage students to take advantage of extra-curricular opportunities.

The Advising Center will develop in coordination with the Advising Council and appropriate offices on campus effective academic advising support services. These will include a variety of advising workshops and brown bags for faculty, staff, special populations and resident advisers.

Communication materials shall include an Advising Handbook in print and electronic media, student informational materials and periodic information updates necessary for a dynamic system.

4. Student Development and Learning Center (SDLC)

In keeping with the tripartite mission of the land-grant university, Montana State University - Bozeman seeks to maintain a fairly open admission policy to provide access to higher education for the citizens of Montana. Concomitant with the liberal admissions policy, MSU must also consistently grapple with the challenges of an academically, experientially and demographically diverse student population. As such, the general student population at MSU reflects the typical demographic profile of a mid-sized land-grant institution which ranges from the best and brightest to those students who are more marginal in aptitude, focus, motivation, emotional readiness or learning skills preparedness.

Each of the students mentioned in the above profile would be well-served by a centralized development and learning center designed to coordinate retention and study skills programs within the Division of Student Affairs. More specifically, this centralized operation would:

  • determine the needs of students at-risk and implement programs to meet those needs
  • coordinate retention programs and services with other designated university offices and personnel
  • facilitate the provision of services and programs for designated special student populations
  • provide personal and academic support services for individual students.

Though fragmented services of this nature are scattered throughout academic and student affairs programs, no centralized and comprehensive student development and learning center presently exists.

The Student Development Learning Center would have as its central focus the primary mission of student success. Beginning with freshman assessment in the Fall using the College Student Inventory (CSI) and concluding with the Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) in the Spring, the program would seek to front-load its retention efforts where they will have the most impact. Channeling both human and fiscal resources toward the freshman year will ensure increased retention rates and provide new students with a sound support system at a critical juncture in their academic careers. The College Student Inventory would enable the staff at the center to quickly and effectively identify those students most at-risk for dropping out and assist those students with both academic and developmental issues. The Student Satisfaction Inventory would be implemented in the Spring to complete the cyclical assessment and evaluation process by measuring student satisfaction with the first year of their MSU experience. Feedback from this evaluation instrument would be incorporated into future retention programming efforts.

The second major goal of the proposed Student Development and Learning Center (SDLC) would address the specific learning skills/needs of students. Based on the outcome of the CSI, academically at-risk students would be identified and enrolled in the center's program. Students in need of assistance would first consult informally to identify areas of need. If deemed appropriate, more formal assessments in domains such as study behavior, attitude, motivation, specific academic skills, aptitude and achievement would be given and academic performance would be reviewed on a continual basis. Where necessary, trained personnel would also screen for cognitive disabilities and psychological impairments and make appropriate referrals for further assessment and/or treatment.

An individualized plan would be developed, responding to the skill development and academic assistance needs of the student. The SDLC would then provide:

  • access to resources for computer, video and other multimedia-based academic skills improvement
  • workshops and individual assistance related to the development of effective study behaviors and other strategies for academic success
  • direct academic assistance in the form of individual, group and computer-based tutoring.

The center would also partner with the on-campus distance learning center to supplement in-house resources, courses and expertise.

At the student development and learning center, students would be given both the opportunity and means for becoming successful students in a climate where individual responsibility and choice is stressed. The center would work closely with the proposed Advising Center and Advising Council and existing services on campus such as the Testing Center, the Writing Center, Advance By Choice, ASMSU tutoring services, the Burns Telecommunications Center, Continuing Education, Residence Life, New Student Services and other entities across campus as the need arises.

Tasks:
  • Coordinates the development of retention and study skills programs and services in the Division of Student Affairs.
  • Develops and implements means of determining the current needs of students at-risk. This includes the development and implementation of programs to meet identified risks.
  • Coordinates retention programs and services with other designated University offices and personnel.
  • Facilitates the provision of services and programs of designated special student populations.
  • Provides personal and academic support services for individual students.
  • Initiates and coordinates activities to strengthen relationships with faculty and academic staff.
  • Develops and coordinates publicity of the office programs.
  • Devises strategies to integrate student development theories into the university learning environment.
  • Develops and presents learning strategies workshops to community.
  • Evaluates the effectiveness of the program.

5. Assessment of the University Advising Process

Student outcomes assessment is no longer a matter of choice for institutions. All regional accrediting bodies require that institutions explicitly state their program objectives and demonstrate through ongoing assessment that their students achieve the stated goals and that assessment data is used for program improvement. The academic advising process presents numerous opportunities for assessment. Virginia Gordon (1991) in The Handbook of Academic Advising states: "Evaluation is an important part of administering an effective advising program. There are many models to follow, including systematic, goal-directed, and student- centered approaches. The Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) describes the components of an advising program and can be used as a guide to create an evaluation plan. Many factors need to be considered when developing an evaluation program, including administrative support, involvement of advisers, establishing program goals, setting criteria, gathering and analyzing data, and closing the loop by using the information for program improvement. Evaluating individual advisers is also an important part of the overall evaluation plan."

Many methods are available to evaluate both advising programs and individual advisers. Surveys and questionnaires are commonly used, but computer and interview techniques are also useful. In addition to using the CAS Standards or an Advising Audit, programs can be evaluated through self-studies and task forces or commissions and by using outside consultants.

At Montana State University - Bozeman, an active Assessment and Outcomes Committee has developed a university-wide program which includes departmental plans to assess undergraduate majors, advising plans, freshman seminars, capstone courses, as well as institutional surveys and cohort tracking. The A & O Committee should work collaboratively with the Advising Council to ensure that advising continues to include an assessment component.

Critical areas in establishing the objectives of a well developed assessment process are:

  • Assess departmental advising plans on a periodic basis.
  • Develop, with faculty involvement, a template for a student evaluation instrument.
  • Continue annual surveys.
  • Establish a periodic survey of non-returning students.
  • Develop methods to ensure that the information collected is used for program improvement.

III. Recommendations

Many components of the advising model are already in place and working well, but when 20-30% of students and alumni on any survey are dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied, simply rearranging the tasks is not going to improve the overall results. The increased need for information and training, for coordination of resources, for assessment and for provision of a more active and accessible advising system, particularly at the Freshman level, will require the reallocation of resources. According to extensive national and MSU research data, a modest investment for improving academic advising at MSU will translate into increased student satisfaction with their advising experiences at MSU. Strong intellectual and social connections and being a part of the fabric of this institution result in increased student success, satisfaction and retention.

The Advising Task Force strongly encourages the administration to provide the leadership to implement the recommendations in this report. We make these recommendations not only because they follow directives from the Board of Regents but primarily because they are educationally sound and will provide an integrative and collaborative structure necessary to achieve the academic mission of Montana State University.

  1. The administration provides visible and continuing commitment to the philosophy that academic advising is an integral component of the mission of Montana State University and the success of the students. The academic culture must reaffirm the value of academic advising to all students as a vital part of the teaching role.

  2. The administration reaffirms academic advising as the role of the departmental faculty and of advisers in General Studies.

  3. The administration recognizes academic and student support services as vital components of the academic mission of MSU; they assist students in achieving their academic and personal goals.

  4. The administration provides leadership to colleges and departments to recognize quality advising in their promotion and tenure process and annual review.

  5. Departments evaluate, on a regular basis, their Advising Plan and the success in reaching the stated goals. Departments provide opportunities for advisers to become more knowledgeable and skilled.

  6. The most effective retention and advising tool is the Freshman Seminar. Every college/department develops a first semester Freshman Seminar (1 - 3 credits) for their declared majors which incorporates the essential elements of successful seminars as identified by national research data. Many models are available. Freshman Seminars show proven retention results and are cost effective.

  7. The Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs forms the Advising Council drawn from experienced advisers, assistant deans and students, to focus regularly on advising issues, solutions and assessment.

  8. Build on existing advising expertise by expanding the General Studies Program to include an Academic Advising Center. This center would provide information to all students and faculty, but particularly to freshmen on university policies and procedures, Core Curriculum policy requirements and classes, scholastic progress issues and available and appropriate referral sources. It would provide answers or referrals on any advising question. An Advising Hotline and WEB site would be instituted. Advising assistance would be available at the registration site in the Strand Union.

  9. Designate a Student Development and Learning Center in the Student Affairs Division. Among multiple functions, this Center would focus on identifying students at risk for departure and provide broad based intervention strategies, skills and support necessary for student success. All Student Affairs retention efforts and research would reside in this center.

  10. The administration considers the access to student records by academic advisers a high priority. With pending technological changes (Banner 2000) this priority must be articulated in all decision making circles.

  11. Charge the Advising Council and the Academic Advising Center with the development of advising workshops and informational materials (comprehensive Advising Handbook, WEB page with regular updates and other communication materials).

  12. Provide temporary support to departments with an identified adviser overload. Peer advisers, organizational support and other assistance will be available. Freshmen will also be able to use the Academic Advising Center in addition to departmental advisers since many freshmen are still unsure of their academic options, choices and direction.

  13. Charge Career Services with developing a program to improve the link between academic preparation and the working world. Advising surveys and the PQ & O document identify the lack of career and internship information from departmental advisers as a major shortcoming in this institution. Career Services is in the best position to lead the improvement effort by providing departments with career workshops and information, and by leading the establishment of a University Internship Development Program which develops and coordinates, in cooperation with departments, internship activities on this campus.


IV. Financial Implications

An improved academic advising process, as part of an overall retention strategy has been cited repeatedly as one of the most effective methods to reduce student departure from the institution.

The American College Testing Program (ACT) prepares national drop out rates by admissions selectivity. The selectivity level for MSU is identified as Traditional (typical 20-23 ACT's). The national fall to fall drop out rate for four year public Ph.D. granting institutions with traditional selectivity is 28%, indicating an average fall to fall retention rate of 72.%. The national five year graduation rates for four year public Ph.D. granting institutions with traditional selectivity is 38.5%.

The average fall-to-fall retention rate at MSU since 1990 has averaged 69.3% for first-time, full-time degree-seeking freshman. Nearly 31% of the freshmen population do not return to this university the following year. Fall-to-fall retention for the 1996 cohort was the lowest reported rate during that period at 67.4%. MSU's fall-to-fall retention rate is approximately 3% lower than national averages.

The four year graduation rate for MSU for the period beginning 1990 averaged 10.7%, while the five year graduation rate for the same period averaged 33.6%. The graduation rate for this institution is nearly 4.9 % lower than the national average for similar universities. Substantial improvement is not only a necessary, but also a reachable goal that holds promise of success for the students and also for the institution.

For each in-state student attending MSU full-time (14-18 credits) the institution receives $1,649.70 in tuition dollars; for each full-time out-of-state student the institution receives $4,395.10 in tuition dollars. Current enrollment demographics at MSU indicate that approximately 70% of the population are in-state students and 30% are out of state. Increasing the fall-to-fall retention rate to the national average of 72%, an increase of 3%, would have significant financial consequences to the university. For example, the entering student population in 1996 was 1,746 students; 67.4% returned for Fall of 1997. If the retention rate for that period was at national averages of 72%, 1,257 students would have returned for Fall of 1997, an increase of 80 students. Based on the current ratio of 2/3 in-state to 1/3 out-of-state, this increased tuition revenue to MSU would have been:

53 in-state students at$1,649.70=$87,434.10
27 out-of-state students at$4,199.10=$113,375.70
$200,809.80

A narrow range exists where the institution receives and gives maximum benefit to the participants. With less than the optimum number of students, as in Spring 1998, budgets suffer and unplanned reductions are applied such as canceling needed classes and reducing adjunct faculty, areas where that is painful, but still possible. The University Advising Plan offers proven strategies to improve retention. Continued intensive assessment will be necessary to evaluate retention outcomes with regard to the advising process.

While there are no standards committed to print, the American College Testing Program (ACT) suggests a ratio of 20 students per faculty member with a full instructional load, and 300 students per full-time advisor. This ratio should be lower for high risk or exploratory students for maximum benefits. The current MSU advising load for faculty advisors averages 38 students. General Studies, which serves exploratory students, currently has a ratio of 400 students per full-time advisor. According to national norms, these advising loads are much higher than national norms. In order to increase retention efforts at MSU to nationally accepted levels, it is necessary to adopt the nationally recognized advising ratios.

Resources necessary for implementation:

Departmental Support
Small revolving fund or trained advising assistance to temporarily help departments which have an identified overload of advisees. All MSU freshmen will be encouraged to use the Advising Center for information assistance and referral to supplement faculty advising efforts.   $5,000

Advising Council
Evaluates advising plans, develops materials for the assessment process 500
One Faculty Adviser conference travel; campus workshop after return 1,200
One annual University advising award  500
$2,200
Advising Center
Provides supplementary advising services for all MSU students, direct service to the undeclared students, and develops workshops and materials for UAP.
   Proposed Minimum Costs:
Professional Academic Advisors, 1.5 FTE FY 45,000
Classified Support Staff, 0.5 FTE FY 10,000
Graduate Assistants 4,000
Peer Advisers 3,000
Operations - including workshops 5,000
Development and printing of academic advising handbook and other materials 3,000
Web site development and updates with registrar  1,200
$71,200
Student Development and Learning Center
Coordinator, 1.0 FTE FY 30,000
Classified Support Staff, 0.5 FTE FY 10,000
Graduate Assistants 4,000
Peer Advisers 2,000
Operations 5,000
Equipment - Computer costs including student accessible computer stations  6,000
$57,000
Career Services
Develops and coordinates the links between Departments and Career Services, Alumni and internship opportunities $20,000

Total Projected Costs for Implementation of University Advising Plan $150,400

Programs and services for students should be centrally located and easily accessible. It is proposed therefore, that consideration be given to moving the General Studies Program and the Academic Advising Center and the Student Development and Learning Center to AJM Johnson when current occupants vacate the building. The small classrooms are ideal for freshman seminars and other class activities.


IV. Implementation

A number of recommendations can be implemented by a letter from the president and/or provost; they are more a change in priorities and values; other recommendations provide an incremental or value added approach. The table below indicates a proposed time frame for implementation and attaches the cost estimate for each recommendation.

Recommendations Time Line $'s
1 - The administration must provide visible and continuing commitment to the philosophy that academic advising is an integral component of the mission of MSU and the success of the students. The academic culture must reaffirm the value of academic advising to all students as a vital part of the teaching role. Letter from
the President
by May 1998
$0
2 - Reaffirm academic advising as the role of the faculty and of advisers in General Studies. See # 1 $0
3 - Recognize academic and student support services as vital components of the academic mission of MSU; they assist students in achieving their academic and personal goals. See # 1 $0
4 - The administration provides leadership to colleges and departments to recognize quality advising in their P & T process and annual review. See #1 $0
5 - Departments evaluate, on a regular basis, their Advising Plan and the success in reaching the stated goals. Departments provide opportunities for advisers to become more knowledgeable and skilled. Ongoing $0
6 - The most effective retention and advising tool is the Freshman Seminar. Every college/department develops a first semester seminar (1-3 credits) for their declared majors which incorporates the essential elements as identified by national research data. Many models are available. Freshman Seminars show proven retention results and are cost effective. By July '99 Need to
discuss
costs
7 - The Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs forms the Advising Council. Drawn from experienced advisers, assistant deans and students, they would focus regularly on advising issues, solutions and assessment. By July '98 $2,200
8 - Build on existing advising expertise by expanding the General Studies Program to include an Academic Advising Center. This center, would provide information to all students and faculty, but particularly to freshman, on university policies and procedures, Core Curriculum policy requirements and classes on scholastic progress issues and 4) on available and appropriate referral sources and would provide answers or referrals on any advising question. An Advising Hotline and WEB site would be instituted. By July '98 $71,200
9 - Designate a Student Development and Learning Center in the Student Affairs Division. Among multiple functions, this Center would focus on identifying students at risk for departure and provide broad based intervention strategies, skills and support necessary for student success. In this integrative center all Student Affairs retention efforts and research resides. By July '98 $57,000
10 - The administration considers the access to student records by academic advisers a high priority. With pending technological changes (Banner 2000) this priority must be articulated in all decision making circles. Ongoing Part of
Banner
costs
11 - Charge the Advising Council and the Advising Center with the Development of Advising workshops and informational materials (comprehensive Advising Handbook, WEB page with regular updates and other communication materials. By July '98 Included
in 8
12 - Provide temporary support for Departments with identified adviser overloads. Freshmen will also be able to use the University Advising Center in addition to Departmental advisers since many freshmen are still unsure of their academic options, choices and direction. By July '98 $5,000
13 - Charge Career Services with developing a program to improve the link between academic preparation and the working world. Advising surveys and the PQ&O document identify the lack of career and internship information from departmental advisers as a major shortcoming in this institution. Career Services is in the best position to lead the improvement effort by Providing departments with career workshops and information, and by leading the establishment of a university Internship Development Program which coordinates, in cooperation with departments, internship activities on this campus. By July '98 $20,000


VI. Appendix

A. Charge

We read much about the changing climate in Higher Education. How diminishing state financial support places an increasing burden on students for tuition revenue and how that impacts fiscal management of the institutions to maintain quality and competitiveness; how we serve an increasingly diverse student body, both culturally and academically and how the technological revolution has its advantages but also decidedly costly aspects. All these and more affect MSU - Bozeman in addition to changes, directives and agreements which emanate directly from our governing bodies. Anticipating and directing change for positive outcomes is preferable to crisis management and one of the opportunities for positive outcomes is improving our advising system. It appears that changes and enhancements may result in considerable dividends in institutional and individual terms. To this end the Advising Task Force was charged by the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, at the request of the President and Provost, to develop a University Advising Plan which would integrate the existing process and resources with additional efforts which have proven to be beneficial. A structured, comprehensive, student responsive system is congruent with the mission of MSU, the Long Range Plan, the PQ&O document and the published accreditation standards governing our upcoming accreditation process.

1. Productivity, Quality and Outcomes Agreement (PQ&O) 1994

"A partnership agreement between the Governor's Office, Board of Regents, Commissioner of Higher Education and Montana State University-Bozeman."

The Productivity, Quality and Outcomes Agreement addresses nine areas to which the University will commit greater effort and attention. In each of these areas, the Agreement identifies multiple goals and outcomes measures and includes implementation methodologies. It also establishes requirements for reporting the progress of the University as it attains each of these goals during the coming years.

Goal 2: Enhance the Quality and Availability of Advising

A student's success in an academic program requires access to effective academic and career advising. Quality advising is also essential to assure that students will progress through their degree programs in a timely fashion and understand how to take full advantage of the educational resources of the University. MSU-Bozeman is committed to enhancing the quality of advising and access to advisors.

a. Increase Quality of Advising

Goal: Students will have confidence that the advising they receive is accurate, timely and relevant to their particular needs. Advisors will be highly knowledgeable about academic requirements and career opportunities. They will also demonstrate a commitment to serve students and to provide high quality academic and career advice.

Implementation: The Implementation Task Force will develop action plans which will include a variety of implementation strategies to achieve this goal. These strategies will address curricular change as well as faculty reward and development structures. Specific strategies will include:

  • Collaboration with the efforts of the University's Assessment and Outcomes program which has established preliminary tracking mechanisms to track advisee cohorts.

  • Establishment of department-specific plans tailored to the unique advising needs of students in each academic department within the University to assure that information regarding academic requirements is readily available to all students and that all faculty are well-informed of curricular developments.

  • Expansion of available information technologies to assure that faculty have immediate access to appropriate student records and transfer information.

  • Training of faculty in both the most effective advising skills and the use of information technologies for advising purposes.

  • Development of lower division seminar style courses which will enhance interaction between faculty and students, increase student self-reliance, and provide direct advice to students.

  • Greater integration of faculty performance as advisors into annual evaluations and merit pay decisions.

b. Enhance Access to Advising

Goal: It is essential that all academic departments provide advising support for students in an easily accessible manner and at times which are suited to students' needs. Accessible advising includes both formal and informal advising activities. Academic advising will foster student self-confidence and promote student self-discipline.

2. Charge from the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs to the Implementation Committee and the Academic Advising Task Force

To develop the implementation strategies in order to realize the goals of the PQ&O Agreement and to recommend an organizational structure and strategies which will effectively address the implementation items in the Agreement.

3. Montana State University-Bozeman Long-Range Plan, 1994 (1998 revisions)

Goal 1: Graduate broadly educated, professionally competent and socially responsible students.

  • Strengthen Undergraduate Education
  • Include academic advising/mentoring in promotion and tenure decisions, and in faculty annual evaluations.

Goal 5: "Attract and retain an academically qualified student population." "Strengthen academic advising and student support services" and 1998 conclusions: Give more emphasis to advising - "Provide a comprehensive program of general university and departmental advising which will offer guidance to all MSU students, beginning in their freshman year. Provide the student support services necessary to address the evolving student clientele."

4. Accreditation Standards, Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges

Standard Two - Education Program and Its Effectiveness:

Undergraduate Program: The institution designs and maintains effective academic advising programs to meet student needs for information and advice, and adequately informs and prepares faculty and other personnel responsible for the advising function.

Policy on Distance Delivery of Courses, Certificate, and Degree Programs: Description of the materials and forms used in the academic advisement process.

Standard Three - Students:

Student Services: The institution recruits and admits students qualified to complete its program. It fosters a supportive learning environment and provides services to support students' achievement of the educational goals.
A systematic program of academic and other educational program advisement is provided. Advisers help students make appropriate decisions concerning academic choices and career paths. Specific adviser responsibilities are defined, published, and made available to students.

Standard Four - Faculty:

Faculty Selection, Evaluation, Roles, Welfare and Development: Faculty participate in academic planning, curriculum development and review, academic advising and institutional governance.

B. Surveys

Graduating Senior Surveys:
Class of 1997
Class of 1996
Class of 1995

Alumni Surveys:
Class of 1993
Class of 1992
Class of 1991

C. Literature

ACT Institutional Data File, 1997. American College Testing Program and National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. Iowa City: IA.

Astin, A.W. (1993). What matters in college: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Braxton, J.M., Vesper, N. And Hossler, D. (1995). "Expectations for college and student persistence." Research in Higher Education 36 (5), 595-613.

Cuseo, J.B. (1991). The freshman orientation seminar: A research based rationale for its value, delivery, and content. (The Freshman Year Experience Monograph No. 9). Columbia: MO

Crockett, D.S. (1985). "Academic advising." In L. Noel, R. Levitz, D. Saluri, & Associates, Increasing student retention: Effective programs and practices for reducing the dropout rate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gordon, (1992). Handbook of Academic Advising. Greenwood Press, CT.

Habley, W.R. (1992). Fulfilling the promise of academic advising. Iowa City, IA: The American College Testing Program.

Kerr, C. (1997). "Speculations about the increasingly indeterminate future of higher education in the United States." The Review of Higher Education 20 (4), 345-356.

Noel, L., Levitz, R., Saluri, D. & Associates (1985). Increasing student retention. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Pascarella, E.T. & Terenzini, P.T. (1991). How college affects students. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Pascarella, E.T. & Terenzini, P.T. (1991). "Twenty years of research on college students: Lessons for future research." Research in Higher Education 32 (1), 83-92.

Perry, W.G. Jr. (1981). "Cognitive and ethical growth: The making of meaning." In A. Chickering, The Modern American College. (pp. 76-116).

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. (2nd ed). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Upcraft, M.L. & J.N. Associates (1989). The Freshman Year Experience. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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