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February 2009 Issue

Featured - GPC Ramps Up Its Student Advising Program

GPC Ramps Up Its Student Advising Program

Research shows that strong academic advising leads to student success and improved retention and graduation rates. Providing quality advising statewide is part of the University System of Georgia’s (USG) Strategic Plan. The Board of Regents’ mandate that all 35 USG colleges and universities provide mandatory student advising has many campuses taking a long, hard look at their advisement programs.

While some programs are exemplary, others have been fragmented and ineffective, and research shows this inconsistency has had a detrimental effect on the progress made by students, especially freshmen and undeclared majors. Without consistent advisement, students tend to seek guidance online, “self-advise” or never seek any kind of advisement assistance. Lacking adequate oversight, students may take courses irrelevant to their majors, struggle through unnecessary classes and miss registration deadlines and opportunities for scholarships and financial aid.

The System Supplement has chosen to highlight one example of a program that was restructured this past year by a University System of Georgia (USG) campus and is getting excellent feedback as a result. Georgia Perimeter College was the first USG institution selected by the Governor’s Office of Customer Service to participate in its Rapid Process Improvement Initiative. The positive impact of this and other campus initiatives led the University System to honor GPC President Anthony Tricoli in October 2008 with the gold medal for leadership in its Customer Service Outstanding Excellence Awards. In January, Tricoli, Atlanta Metropolitan College President Gary McGaha and Southern Polytechnic State University President Lisa Rossbacher were invited to take part in a panel discussion on advising during a meeting of the USG’s presidents. What follows is based on Tricoli’s presentation.

What Was

“Interviews with Georgia Perimeter College’s academic advisors, staff and students showed that our academic advising process was inconsistent and even non-existent at times,” Tricoli said. “Only first-time, full-time students, Learning-Support students and English-as-a-Second-Language students were required to see an advisor. That needed to change, both to improve student success, to meet the Board of Regents’ mandate and to achieve our strategic plan, which puts student success at the heart of all we do at Georgia Perimeter College.”

What Is Now

“We have a new comprehensive academic advising program that provides ongoing support for all students throughout their tenure at Georgia Perimeter,” Tricoli said. The new program requires new students to attend an interactive New Student Orientation focusing on academic expectations, tips for academic success, a break-out session on financial aid, guidelines for registration, phone numbers to call for assistance and special advising sessions for Learning-Support students and parents or guardians.

GPC Online students have an updated and more comprehensive online orientation. Learning-Support students receive in-class advisement at regular intervals and online information on their Learning-Support attempts that they must read and acknowledge before moving on.

Learning-Support instructors have advising talking points for each point in the advising process. In addition, full-time and adjunct faculty members have received enhanced training and can rely on many new tools and resources, including the support Master Advisors on each GPC campus.

Full-time freshmen are assigned cohort advisors, and all students are required to see an advisor after earning 15, 30 and 45 credit hours at GPC. These checkpoints assist students in staying on track with the classes they need for graduation or to transfer to another institution and also facilitate contact with the advisors, Tricoli said.

The college also has added advising resources and links, faculty office hours and a streamlined Academic Plan for Success form to GPC’s online Student Information System.

The Outcome

“How do we know we are doing a good job of advising now? Reduced frustration and increased accolades from faculty, staff and students,” said Tricoli. “Our Master Advisors are receiving far fewer questions and complaints from students and faculty. Our customer-service surveys have very positive feedback, our retention and graduation rates are higher and we’re getting invitations from state, regional and national chapters of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) to present and publish on our innovative program elements.”

Posted by John Vanchella on February 21, 2009
Published in: On Campus, Presidents, Students on Campus

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