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Amanda Hodges, East Carolina University

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President Barack Obama’s educational priorities include improving college and career readiness and re-establishing America as the global leader in higher education. But if the United States is to have “the highest proportion of students graduating from college in the world by 2020” (White House, 2010, ¶ 7), it is crucial to consider how academic advisors might be pioneers in this movement. As a starting point, advisors might look beyond what has traditionally been done to improve persistence and graduation rates within our respective institutions. The new frontier for academic advisors in today’s world of education could be as close as our local high schools.

 

Students seeking postsecondary success can be thrown off-course by academic, social, informational, financial, and bureaucratic barriers (Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, 2008). Academic advisors can offer high school students, counselors, and educators the tools to break down these barriers. Experience as an academic advisor at East Carolina University has offered me invaluable help in guiding twelfth-grade students at a local high school through the murky and often confusing waters of postsecondary education. However, there are thousands of high school counselors who have not advised at the college level; they could better help their students if they had a connection with an academic advisor.

Stanford University’s six-year national study, the Bridge Project, noted that “neither K-12 or postsecondary education can solve the lack of student success working alone. They must work together to accomplish their mutual goals to enhance student college completion” (Kirst, 2007). As such, I propose that academic advisors consider pioneering a new frontier of collaboration between secondary and postsecondary stakeholders in order to make dreams come true for countless high school students.

Students want to pursue postsecondary education. Nearly 90% of eighth grade students aspire to postsecondary pursuits (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2007, ¶ 2); however, only about 70% of students succeed in attending college within two years of graduating from high school (Kirst, Venezia, & Antonio, 2003, ¶ 1). Unfortunately, there is little time for high school counselors to educate students about their postsecondary options and fully prepare them for higher education, which results in a lack of “accurate, high quality information about and access to courses that will help prepare students for college-level standards” (Kirst, Venezia, & Antonio, 2003, ¶ 3). This is “particularly the case in low-income high schools where access to quality and timely information is often limited due to staffing constraints and insufficient school resources…where a majority of youth is potentially first-generation college students” (Malone, 2009, ¶ 5).  Among those students who do pursue postsecondary education within two years of graduation, over half of all low-income and nearly half of minority students will not complete postsecondary degree requirements within six years (Malone, 2009, ¶ 2). Rather than being able to dedicate time for educating these students regarding the world of postsecondary education, high school counselors are called upon to perform a variety of roles that have little to do with postsecondary preparation for students. My experiences at South Central High School support this statement.

South Central High School is a Title I school where about half of all students receive free/reduced lunches and almost 70% are minorities. SCHS seniors often do not have access to the Internet outside the classroom. They lack transportation beyond city buses and, most importantly, they lack knowledge of postsecondary expectations, requirements, and processes. Registrations for SAT, ACT, and FAFSA are predominantly online as are most application materials for postsecondary institutions. These disadvantaged students face tremendous barriers from the beginning of the matriculation process. For those who gain acceptance to a postsecondary institution, the challenges of maneuvering this unknown world grow even greater. If these disadvantaged students are to succeed, and if college persistence and graduation rates are to improve, then academic advisors must consider “an earlier, long-term investment, begun when students are in secondary school” (Malone, 2009).

Bridge/transition programs exist to aid in students’ success such as Upward Bound, GEAR UP, and dual enrollment. However, statistical effectiveness of these programs has not strongly been established and very few programs have an ongoing relationship with the students or involve academic advisors. When academic advisors establish feeder relationships, we team up with secondary school counselors to ensure that future advisees begin their postsecondary careers with the knowledge required to be successful.

When academic advisors create partnerships with secondary school stakeholders, the results are far-reaching. Academic advisors can lay the foundation needed for high school seniors to graduate with the “skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college including academic content competencies, college application guidance, cognitive and critical thinking skills, civic awareness, time management and teamwork strategies, and healthy social-emotional coping abilities” (Malone, 2009, ¶ 4). When challenged to improve retention, persistence, and graduation rates, academic advisors should take the road less traveled and explore a new world of possibilities at our local high schools. Advisors who accept this challenge will reap benefits beyond compare both professionally and personally.

Amanda Hodges
12th Grade School Counselor
South Central High School
Winterville, NC
HODGESA01@students.ecu.edu

References

Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. (2008, May). Transition matters: Community college to bachelor’s degree. A Proceedings Report of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. Washington, D.C.

Kirst, M. W. (2005). Separation of K-12 and postsecondary education governance and policymaking: Evolution and impact. In State of Education Policy Research. Edited by Fuhrman, S. & Cohen, D. Earlbaum Publishing Company.

Kirst, M.W. (2007). Enhancing college completion: Secondary schools and colleges must work together. Paper Prepared for the Penn State University Conference “Revisioning the American High School for an Engaged Citizenry,” June 7, 2007. Stanford University.

Kirst, M. W., Venezia, A., & Antonio, A. L. (2003). The Bridge Project: Executive Summary. Retrieved from www.stanford.edu/group/bridgeproject/execsummary.html

Malone, H. J. (2009, Fall). Build a bridge from high school to college: Transition programs are essential for many disadvantaged students. Phi Kappa Phi Forum. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com /p/articles/mi_qa4026/is_200910/ai_n39234016/

U.S. Department of  Education. (2007). College transition programs: Promoting success beyond high school. High School Leadership Summit. Retrieved from www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/hsinit/papers/trans.pdf

White House. (2010). Education Issues. Retrieved from www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education

Cite this article using APA style as: Hodges, A. (2010, December). Venture to a new frontier: The need for partnerships between postsecondary academic advisors and secondary schools. Academic Advising Today, 33(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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