Survey: Nearly half of college students have not gotten academic guidance crucial to degree progress

Only 55% of college students say they’ve received academic guidance on required courses and course sequences needed for degree completion, according to the first 2023 Student Voice survey of 3,004 undergraduate students at 128 two- and four-year institutions. Conducted in collaboration with Inside Higher Ed and the online survey and analytics company College Pulse, the survey on college academic life, with a focus on advising and registration, also found that just 52% of students report receiving help reviewing their degree progress to make sure they are on track to graduate, Inside Higher Ed reports.

College academic advisors take on multiple roles—mentor, advocate, and coach—in order to take a holistic approach to meeting students’ complex needs, experts explain. However, advisors say their most important job is to help students stage their coursework so they complete their degree. “It’s a core responsibility to teach students about how to navigate the curriculum and our main function, regardless of how many hats we’re going to wear,” Locksley Knibbs, lead academic advisor for students studying the natural sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University, tells Inside Higher Ed.

Gaps in the advising process

Although most students grade their academic advisors’ knowledge and efforts with an A or B, the survey indicated that there are flaws in the system. The vast majority (76%) of students surveyed reported being automatically assigned an academic advisor, but just 21% say they’ve periodically met with them. Looking at the racial identities of respondents also showed that 63% of white students say they’ve received academic advising, compared to just half of Black, Latine, and Asian students. Although unexpected crises may derail students’ progress, only 16% of students surveyed reported receiving help staying on track when health issues or unforeseen events posed a challenge to their academic success.

To improve their outreach to underrepresented students and students who may be struggling to complete their coursework, academic advisors need institutional support, including clear and up-to-date curriculum maps and additional staff to balance caseloads, experts say. Higher education institutions also need to recognize the importance of advisors to ensure more equitable student outcomes. “​​How are your students supposed to navigate and get out on time when most colleges are pushing a four-year graduation?” Knibbs asks. “That doesn’t happen without advisors in the midst of that.”

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