Tips for Dealing with Funding Reductions

Advising Administrators'
Tips for Dealing with Funding Reductions

With the current budget cuts in many states and institutions of higher education, we think it helpful to share how Advising Administrators have or are dealing with reductions in funding. As such, the NACADA Advising Administration Commission requested that members share any "tips" that may be replicated by others - from the very basic to the very creative!

Below find a compilation of the submitted tips along with contact information for each administrator. We thank each contributor. Know that your willingness to share is appreciated by all facing these grim economic times. NACADA members may still suggest tips at nacada@ksu.edu .

Alice Reinarz , past Chair
Advising Administration Commission


Category 1: Enhancing awareness of Central Administration of the value of academic advising.

  • At UNLV we are working through our campus-wide Advising Council to get official reports to Central Administration. Last spring we conducted the first survey of all undergraduate advising units on campus (both advising centers, and individual departments with faculty advisors) and sent bound copies of the Summary Report to the Provost and the Vice-President for Administration. Additionally we have used Advising Council meetings to conduct roundtable discussions on topics of current concern to the university and sent forth summaries to these same offices and/or task forces assembled to research those topics.
  • Carol Jensen, Director
    Greenspun College of Urban Affairs Student Advising Center
    University of Nevada, Las Vegas

  • First and foremost is to assess the executive management's position on academic advising. Are they for it or just neutral? If they need convincing, this is where data is most helpful. For example, numbers of students served in a term and number of advisors. What are the advising loads per major? Too high by your institution's standards or CAS/NACADA recommendations that advising accessibility is reasonable and offers few delays? What is the value of academic advising to the institution? Data should be collected continually and presented to the administration. Also, focus groups with advisors and students are helpful to establish the "climate" toward advising services on the campus. Is advising considered a retention activity? Dollars are generally easily committed to programs that emphasize student retention. Showing the institution how much it loses in revenue when a student leaves will many times speak a powerful message with few words.
  • Linda Chalmers
    Executive Director of Academic Advising
    University of Texas at San Antonio

Category 2. Resource re-allocations to continue to meet basic needs of students.

  • I started a Peer Advising program two years ago. Peer advisors take the burden off our staff advisors by doing routine tasks such as handing out forms and petitions, telling students what courses they need to complete before they can declare, and referring them to campus resources. Peer Advisors are not paid, although some earn 1 unit of credit for their efforts.
  • Katie Dustin
    Coordinator of Advising Services
    UC Berkeley

  • Three areas were becoming bottlenecks in terms of time demands. Career advisement (assessment, preparation - resumes, portfolios; opportunities, actual job hunt), graduate school, and teaching.

    Here at OCAD, we knew this was coming so the last year has been spent doing and observing what we were doing (even logging everything, including phone calls) so we could figure out how to improve a segment or cut it. Over the past year, I compiled the basic questions students had about careers, about teaching, and about graduate school. This information has all been put into word processing documents. Until we upload these onto our site, I hand out hard copies to students who are making inquiries regarding any one of them. They must read through these (the longest, the applying to grad school one, is ten pages) before coming in to see me. Then they often opt for a mere e-mail query regarding the material or a short phone call. It's definitely saved me time this cycle.

    Principle: 1) Refer students to written documentation - word document, Internet site, Web page - prior to formal appointment. 2) Make a note and keep the same kind of file - "Student referred to 'Applying To Graduate School' and will call back to come in and see me." you would for an in-person session. 3) Answer abbreviated questions via e-mail or short, documented, phone call.

  • Thomas G. Fairbairn
    Student Academic Advisor
    Ontario College of Art & Design

  • At Marygrove College, we were asked to freeze open positions as well as trim 20% of our operating budget this fall due to a severe budget crisis. I am Director of Academic Advising and Career Services for this small liberal arts college. I cut from 10-25% of line items that I felt we could most control, or would be able to delay utilizing until after June 30, the end of our fiscal year. However, I had a position open which we deemed to be critical - Job Development Coordinator, who coordinates internships and coops.

    After several attempts to petition to have the job filled, and attempts to temporarily realign responsibilities within the department to cover the activities, my boss and I decided to completely realign the department. We had a mixed model of advising, with freshman and sophomore students of most majors being advised within Academic Advising, then being transferred to Faculty Advisors as they complete developmental and foundational courses in Reading, Math, and Writing. We served about 300 students.

    We eliminated one Academic Advisor position and transferred that individual to the Job Development position. We are reassigning any declared students to faculty advisors as we work with them to plan Winter term schedules. As of January 1, 2003, any newly admitted students who have declared a major will go directly to faculty in that department. We will retain only undecided students, who will be advised by one full time Academic Advisor working with freshman. Undecided transfer students will be advised by the Career Development Specialist. I, as Director, will take students from any department which is overloaded (about 20 students per faculty advisor is considered a load.)

    We made the announcement to faculty about this, and have had little reaction. It will mean the faculty will be advising more freshman than ever before. It will also mean that the Registrar's office will see more students during registration, because we used to register them during their advising appointments, and faculty do not. By June, we should have a better idea of how this will work.

  • Martha D. Adamson,
    MAIR Director of Academic Advising & Career Services
    Marygrove College
    Detroit, MI 48221-2599

  • The best idea we have implemented successfully is our NSider and our E-Adviser. We are sending out weekly emails to our students and posting that information on our web site as NSider (somewhat of a newsletter) to keep students abreast of any deadlines and issues or concerns of importance. E-Adviser allows students to ask their advising questions via the web as an alternative to coming into the office. That has worked VERY WELL for us. We are looking at our web site and our bulletin and ways we can make more "helpful" information available to students via alternative means--the web site, bulletin, orientation/group advising sessions, etc.
  • D'Vee Buss
    Director of Undergrad Programs
    University of Nebraska-Lincoln

  • We had an academic advising fee created last year. However, the plan mostly was to shift advising offices onto soft money at the same budgeting levels.
  • Kriss Boyd
    Director General Academics
    Texas A&M University-Main Campus

  • In the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs Student Advising Center we have trained our two clerical undergraduate student workers to advise limited populations of new students. Although we requested a half-time advisor when our college undergraduate FTE increased 28.89% this fall, a hiring freeze was put in effect shortly thereafter.
  • Carol Jensen
    Director, Greenspun College of Urban Affairs Student Advising Center
    University of Nevada, Las Vegas

  • Resource re-allocations to continue to meet basic needs of students. Technology plays a big role on this one. Is your records system one that can be tweaked to enhance advising? Such as email advising and web-based advising information? What are your students' basic needs? What special populations are served and, thus, need the one-on-one advising whereas others might get what they need from group sessions or the web?

    How can you cluster students so group advising would give a positive pay-off when staff reductions are required? Information sessions provide a vehicle to educating students about their majors or graduation requirements, etc. without having to meet one-on-one.

  • Linda Chalmers
    Executive Director of Academic Advising
    University of Texas at San Antonio

Category 3. Maintaining employee morale.
  • We held a staff retreat when we realized cuts were going to need to be made and asked for suggestions/ideas that included looking "outside the box." You would be surprised at the ideas people came up with as possible options. A team effort usually provides some thoughts others may not have considered.
  • D'Vee Buss
    Director of Undergrad Programs
    University of Nebraska-Lincoln

  • I have let four advisors shift to flex time - 4, 10-hour days. So far they seem to like the tradeoff, and it means we can provide some evening hours for the students.
  • Kriss Boyd
    Director General Academics
    Texas A&M University-Main Campus

  • We continue to maintain employee morale in the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs Student Advising Center by celebrating birthdays with a one-hour reception (food brought in from outside sources rather than using the expensive campus food service's catering). We also celebrate the winter holidays with a name-drawing gift exchange ($5.00 limit) and again refreshments brought in from off campus. Our full-time professional staff advisors meet quarterly off campus for a half day (long-range planning) mini-retreat, at our own expense. We continue to participate in NACADA conferences, even if we should need to cover a portion of the expenses ourselves.
  • Carol Jensen
    Director, Greenspun College of Urban Affairs Student Advising Center
    University of Nevada, Las Vegas

  • This is an objective that should be occurring during times of plenty as well as retrenchment. If schools have to lay-off staff then it should have the wherewithal to assist the staff members with interviewing skills, job placement resources, and recommendation letters where warranted. Bringing in campus counselors is also an important step as the employees who stay may likely feel guilty about their good fortune. Looking at technology usage and improvements for the remaining staff is critical, too.
  • Linda Chalmers
    Executive Director of Academic Advising
    University of Texas at San Antonio

Category 4. Just where/how are you making cuts?
  • Thus far, I'm not able to offer a 19 hour per week professional advisor position that is open to the selected candidate. I am performing 50% of the duties of this position and have distributed the other 50% of the position between two other part-time professional advisors.
  • Susan L. Heyward , Director
    Academic Advisement Center
    Eastern Connecticut State University

  • Oregon higher education has been especially hard hit. As a result, student services is being reorganized, and an enrollment manager will be hired; thus, I will no longer have a position here at Eastern Oregon University as of June 30, 2003. Any job leads would be greatly appreciated.
  • Pat North
    Director of Academic Services
    Eastern Oregon University

  • The advising format in the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska includes an Advising Center that is staffed by both student and professional staff. We have not done many of the following, but are considering them: With student staff, we will cut the number of hours they work. To continue to accommodate students best, we will first look at cutting hours which least impact students (first thing in the morning; late hours in the afternoon; Friday afternoons which tend to be quiet). We will also look at cutting back on hours for normal working days and then increasing them at peak times (priority registration, first of the semester, etc.). We have an enormous amount of paper work we continue to deal with (substitutions, evaluation of transfer credit, etc., etc.). We are looking at different ways to manage this paper work in a timely fashion given a cut in staff--possibly having paper work pool parties, where we all come together for a designated period of time where we all work together on paper work to get it done in a concentrated period of time. In some instances we are looking at whether or not we will process paper work--depending what it is--holding it in the file until student indicates a need to have something done with it (this will vary with the 'kind" of paperwork). We're simply going to stop doing some things. Even though we have had a wonderful customer service reputation, we just know we cannot continue to do everything we have done in the past. We have begun to use DARS and will continue to look at ways to utilize this format of advising--putting some training information on the web, etc.
  • D'Vee Buss
    Director of Undergrad Programs
    University of Nebraska-Lincoln

  • Fortunately, we haven't had to make cuts, yet. Our legislature only meets every other year, though, and we have been asked to make projections for this spring's session about what we would cut if we had a decrease in funding.

    If I had to cut, I would: Reduce the size of one learning community program by excluding 30 guaranteed spaces for student athletes - maybe the Athletic Department could find some funds to cover that reduction. Eliminate a program we have to serve students with over 60 hours (we are the home base for Gen. Stds. majors up until that time) and let the colleges decide if they want to try to retain those students. Eliminate a pilot cluster-registration program for which we have not been allocated permanent funding. Reduce the size of a program which is a collaboration with a local community college. We have advisors that actually go over to that campus two days each week, and I would have to bring them back to our campus. Reduce student worker hours.

  • Kriss Boyd
    Director General Academics
    Texas A&M University-Main Campus

  • We have made cuts in hiring by using undergraduate student workers for limited advising. Although we increase their pay for the hours they advise, these wages are far less than the cost of a contracted half-time professional staff advisor. We have switched to a less expensive on-line mode of placing bulk orders for copies of printed materials. When small equipment, such as space heaters or microwaves are purchased, we look for sale items off campus, rather than using the more expensive Boise catalog. I guess the bottom line is, "It is possible to find ways to deal with funding reductions; the next step is to do so without increasing substantially the amount of time required."
  • Carol Jensen
    Director, Greenspun College of Urban Affairs Student Advising Center
    University of Nevada, Las Vegas

  • At the University of Texas at San Antonio we went into a student advising fee assessment structure starting last spring term. In 1999 we reorganized our whole advising operation with a $500,000 commitment from the President to fund more advisors. In 2000 we were faced with the strong possibility of curtailing our advising services with impending legislative cuts. The Deans went forward with a fee assessment and the students agreed.

    The assessments have brought about new challenges but have been generally accepted due to the increased level of advising quality and services. We are constantly assessing and reassessing. We have a fee advisory group with students and will be utilizing the group in the spring to educate the student population about the increase in fees, advising in general, and the student's responsibilities in the process.

    We will be raising fees for next year to meet our growing enrollment. Space limitations are our biggest issues now.

    So we are on the upside of the funding swing but we still must do our homework, collect data, and communicate to the executive management about the importance and successes of the increased level of advising services. We've already seen an increase in our freshman retention rate this fall that correlates to the increase in advising services from 1999 - 2001. We are starting to see an increase in the number of students who graduate although it's too soon to tell if the time-to-degree factor has been impacted positively. One general thing to remember---always be assessing, talking, educating, and proclaiming the good of advising.

  • Linda Chalmers
    Executive Director of Academic Advising
    University of Texas at San Antonio

  • One way I am dealing with the budget crisis here at Michigan State in my office is by asking staff to go to a reduced status by having a month off without pay. This reduces their position from 100% to 91.6%. The particular time off is negotiated taking into account the needs of the office, student traffic flow, and the circumstances of the staff. I got 5 staff to volunteer for this and also received requests from 2 staff members to go to half-time. Since we have fairly predictable student traffic throughout the academic year, it has worked out well. There is no significant interruption in services and staff really appreciate the time off to rejuvenate.
  • Bonita Pope Curry
    Professor Director Undergraduate University Division
    Michigan State University

Want additional information regarding this issue?Learn how to determine the worth of your advising unit in theCritical Advising Issuessection of theClearinghouse.


Cite this resource using APA style as:

Reinarz, Alice. (2003). Advising administrators' tips for dealing with funding reductions. Retrieved -insert today's date- from theNACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising ResourcesWeb site at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/admintips.aspx