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A SMART Approach
Karen Vignare
Executive Director,
Personalized Learning Consortium


Campus-wide Advising Reform

Though many services and initiatives support student success at college and university campuses, how to access and navigate these support systems is not always readily apparent to students. Student affairs and academic affairs often operate in silos leaving students with the difficult and discouraging task of navigating a complex and at times incoherent system. For the most vulnerable student populations, these gaps in support and navigational challenges may mean the difference between selecting the major best suited to their career aspirations, persisting in a course that is integral to success in their major, taking full advantage of financial aid, receiving necessary counseling or mental health services, or accumulating the appropriate credits to complete their degree.

Colleges and universities acknowledged this challenge and in seeking innovative ways to support student success, have found that creating advising systems that facilitate proactive outreach to students before a student seeks assistance and create mechanisms for integrating academic and non-academic supports such as registration, counseling, degree planning, financial aid guidance, academic mentoring and tutoring, can have a significant impact on student persistence and degree completion.  This holistic, collaborative method of supporting student success is commonly referred to as campus-wide proactive advising or Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (IPASS).

Facilitating this integrated and proactive approach often entails changing structures, policies and practices to redesign how and where advising is delivered and the implementation of technologies to facilitate better cross campus communication about student success and data analytics to identify when student are falling off track. All of these systems work together to allow advisors and faculty to case manage each student, providing the supports necessary to succeed.

To support colleges and universities in implementing these strategic reforms to their advising systems to better serve today’s students, APLU works with postsecondary institutions and thought leaders to identify and scale best practices in advising reform. APLU recently launched an online educational resource, A SMART Approach to Student Success: Strategic Management of Advising Reform and Technology to provide leaders in academic affairs and student affairs, advising managers, professional advisors and faculty an opportunity to learn from peer colleges and universities that have successfully  transformed structures and processes, redesigned advising systems, and established mechanisms of cross-campus collaboration to target the specific needs of their student population incorporating the strategic use of technology.

Proactive Advising in the News

“If you’re in the top 25% of Americans right now, you have about an 80% chance of holding a college degree. If you’re in the lowest 25%, you have under a 10% chance. So you’re talking about a ratio of somewhere around 10 to 1 more likely based on what kind of family income youre born into. That’s not right. We all know that that’s not right. It’s also not healthy for the social life, the economic life of our country.”

Timothy Renick, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success, and University Vice Provost at Georgia State University

“It’s about a ‘one university’ focus. When you have everyone pulling together, it’s an amazing process to observe and be a part of. When you have Student Affairs, the Registrar’s Office, IT, Admissions, Athletics, the chairs for all the colleges, faculty governance…when everybody’s lined up, that’s where the difference occurs.”

Rick Sluder, Vice Provost for Student Success, Middle Tennessee State University

“Sometimes, our students don’t know what they don’t know, and they may be limited by the knowledge of the careers that may be available because of the limited exposure they have had to different careers. And so having an advising platform that really opens opportunities for students is crucial.”

Virginia Fraire, Vice President for Student Services, Austin Community College