Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director
As I sit at my computer, I am thrilled that SPRING has finally SPRUNG in Kansas! After what seemed to be the winter that would not end, it is wonderful to see flowers blooming in my yard and be able to sit on my screened porch and contemplate the importance of academic advising on our campuses across the world! (Yes, perhaps I need a hobby?)
Seriously, this has been an interesting year for higher education in what is predicted to be a series of challenging years. The global financial crisis continues to critically impact our daily work. Institutions across the world have seen dramatic increases in the number of students at a time of even more dramatic budget cuts and financial shortfalls. For the first time ever, community colleges are closing their doors to new students due to lack of space and lack of available classes. At the same time, universities in states such as Arizona and Florida have significantly reduced their freshman class sizes as a direct result of a decrease in the state funding needed to support these students.
Our colleagues in the United Kingdom (UK) recently were dealt a £500 million cut to higher education with predicted larger cuts for 2011. This has resulted in faculty and staff layoffs and the closing of academic programs at a time of record student enrollment. The cuts are coming when a record 45% of the UK population between 18 and 30 years old are enrolled in some form of higher education. In the US, the Post 9/11 GI Bill has brought a significant increase in the enrollment of veterans and active military students when the support programs needed by many of these students have decreased. At the same time, an April 2010 US Department of Education report showed that while college enrollment continues to rise, graduation rates have stagnated. This is while states such as Ohio have moved to new higher education funding plans based upon graduation and completion rates instead of enrollment numbers. These changes mean we must significantly change the culture of higher education so that we have institution-wide commitments to student success where academic advising, as all research indicates, is key to achieving student success!
This spring I have seen clearly this shift in culture evidenced in significant ways. It was very exciting to have over 200 participants registered from the US, Canada, and several other countries at the NACADA Seminar on Strategies for Improving Student Retention and Persistence. With cuts in travel and professional development funding, I believe these numbers clearly indicate that student success and academic advising are important enough that institutions made participation in this event a priority!
I also had the opportunity to be a part of the What Works: Student Success and Retention Conference in the United Kingdom, where over 150 participants gathered to discuss what works in improving student success on their campuses. Once again, much of the discussion centered on the importance of academic advising (known as personal tutoring in the UK) to student success. This culture shift is further demonstrated by the interest in research in the field of student success and retention as demonstrated by joint UK and NACADA sponsorship of literature reviews within the student retention field. The US (NACADA) portion of this literature review is a synthesis compiled by Wendy Troxel, Illinois State University, and will be available soon in the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources with links to the UK effort.
Just as exciting is the public support of academic advising by numerous leaders in higher education. At the recent NACADA Region 10 Conference in Colorado Springs, CO, Tony Kinkel, President of Pikes Peak Community College, spoke of the importance of academic advising to student success and the key role academic advisors play in the instructional mission of the college. He strongly encouraged advisors to continue to collaborate with their faculty counterparts to provide the highest quality educational experiences for students. At the What Works: Student Success and Retention conference in Leeds, England, Baroness Estelle Morris, former Secretary of Education in the United Kingdom and now Chair of the Strategy Board for the Institute of Effective Education at the University of York, stated clearly the importance of student success initiatives in colleges and universities and the value academic advising/personal tutoring plays in the success of students in the United Kingdom. Dana Mohler-Faria, President of Bridgewater State College, in his keynote address at the NACADA Region 1 Conference in Newton, MA, stated that academic advising matters because it changes lives by taking people to places of their potential! He stated that academic advisors teach students how to effectively engage in their educations and with their institutions. He further stated that student success must be at the center of all institutional work and decision making; therefore, academic advising is critical to the success of higher education. At the NACADA Region 4 Conference in Atlanta, GA, Erroll Davis, Chancellor of the 35 institution, 350,000 student University System of Georgia, said that very little is more connected to the academic, career, and personal success of students than academic advising. He stated that the end goal of higher education must be the retention, persistence, and graduation of students; as such academic advising is the key to student engagement in their educational careers. Under his leadership, the enhancement of academic advising is identified as Goal #1 in the University System of Georgia’s Strategic Goals; the system is holding all institutions and college and university presidents accountable for a high level of achievement in the quality and consistency of academic advising.
During a recent visit to Florida International University in Miami, FL, I had the honor of being invited to a cookout at the home of Mark Rosenberg, President of FIU, who held this event to recognize the importance of the academic advising community at FIU. President Rosenberg welcomed the academic advisors, faculty advisors, and administrators to his home saying that the role academic advisors play in the lives of students is essential to their undergraduate success and, thus, is integral to increasing student persistence and graduation rates at FIU. In April, I had the extreme pleasure of co-presenting a workshop with Anthony Tricoli, President of Georgia Perimeter College, at the American Association of Community Colleges conference. Here we discussed the role of academic advising in the success of community college students and the responsibility college leaders have to support the development of quality academic advising programs on their campuses. President Tricoli delineated the path Georgia Perimeter College has taken in clearly connecting academic advising to teaching and learning and how important his college’s connection to NACADA has been for faculty and professional advisors.
Clearly, due to a myriad of reasons, higher education across the world is at a pivotal place in history; but no reason is as important as the increasing focus on Student Success! Academic advising is key to this success. I encourage all of NACADA’s nearly 10,000 members to be active participants in the change of culture at our institutions. Begin today – share this issue of Academic Advising Today with campus administrators; use the vast resources available through your NACADA membership to influence campus decision-makers. Stand up and become the key advocate for student success and academic advising on campus!
Charlie Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Cite this article using APA style as: Nutt, C. (2010, September). From the executive director: Stand up and become the key advocate for student success and academic advising on campus and around the globe! Academic Advising Today, 33(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]