Better advising leads to improved student success

Better advising leads to improved student success

By Ellie Ashford

Community College of Philadelphia’s focus on advising is leading to clearer pathways for students.

Restructured student advising functions – along with more attention to students’ personal needs and career decisionmaking – can pay off in improved student success, several community colleges are finding.

At the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), a restructured advising system is a key part of its efforts to improve graduation rates and year-to-year retention.

After blending its academic advising and student affairs departments 18 months ago, CCP is now increasing its advising staff as part of its work in the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) Pathways Project, which is helping colleges develop and scale up structured academic and career pathways.

Seven new full-time advisers are in place for the 2016-17 year, and CCP plans to hire three more. They are housed in a new department dedicated exclusively to student retention, persistence and success and will focus on helping first-year students with planning, and if needed, interventions to keep them on track.

“The guided pathways model is a key component to the entire approach,” says CCP President Donald Generals.

“We revamped curricula programs to make advising critical,” adds Samuel Hirsch, vice president for academic and student success. “It’s about being proactive and being very intentional. We’re really creating a very different advising model.”

Bigger role for advisors

Each advisor is assigned to a cohort of students in one of five pathways: healthcare, liberal arts for transfer students, business, arts and humanities, and applied studies. Some of those pathways are in place now, and all should be operational by fall 2017.

This fall, new students are taking a first-year experience course that calls for them to develop an individual education plan with courses broken down by semester, transfer plan, career plan and financial plan.

Online platforms are helping CCP manage advising, including the Gates Foundation’s iPASS (Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success) system, which combines advising, student planning and intervention, and the Starfish Early Alert program for flagging students struggling in class.

Each advisor is still responsible for about 500 to 600 students, but the new approach “is about the work they do with each student, including active follow-up,” Hirsh says.

“If the model works correctly, we want to push students to be independent,” Generals says. “After an advisor works with a student for a couple of semesters, we hope most students will become independent learners.”

Find out what other colleges are doing by reading the full Community College Daily article.

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Ellie Ashford

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.