Overwhelmed Advisors & the Impact on Families

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A majority of college students don’t earn a four-year degree in four years. Some switch majors or work part- or full-time. Others are enrolled in programs, such as engineering or education at some colleges, that are structured to take five years. But more should graduate on time, said Charlie Nutt, executive director of the National Academic Advising Association.


One reason cited for the low on-time graduation rates: overwhelmed academic advisors.

The Value of Advising

…industry experts imply that for on-time graduation rates to increase an average advisor should be responsible for no more than 300 students.

Advising is powerful because it attends to core elements of each student’s success: setting academic goals based on transfer and/or career interests, developing an academic plan to attain those goals, and staying on track until those goals are met. Each of these big-picture tasks encompasses dozens of smaller ones.



Common goals of an Academic Advisor include:



  • Raising aspirations and setting goals. Advisors meet with students individually and/or in groups to help students explore their academic and career options and set career and academic goals. As part of this process, advisors show students paths they might not have considered—such as transferring to earn a bachelor’s degree or pursuing a career path with higher earning potential—to help students improve their economic mobility.

  • Developing academic plans and registering for courses. Advisors help students develop detailed academic plans to attain their goals. And of course, they help students identify and register for the courses they need each term.

  • Helping students help themselves. Advisors point students to a variety of supports—including academic, financial, and social service resources—that students can use to improve their college experience and opportunities for success. This effort to help students better engage with their coursework, peers, and instructors often start with an orientation and continue throughout the students’ years at the college.

The challenge…


The average university advisor is responsible for the success and graduation of over 500+ students. Yet, industry experts imply that for on-time graduation rates to increase an average advisor should be responsible for no more than 300 students.



Educational technology, like DegreeSight, is the way to improve this ratio and make real impacts on both graduation rates and student success. Solving this efficiency problem will drive a new wave of students who graduate in less time (with less debt), while also allowing universities to attract:



  1. more funding from states and donors due to the success of students and alumni, and
  2. more students who are trying to find smart ways to make the most of their investments.

In the end, creating advising efficiency is the lever that drives greater success for both the university and the student, and that could be the timely and pragmatic change that the industry needs to continue forward!

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