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Monday, October 21, 2019

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SGA bill proposes massive advising reform


In July, the Student Government Association Senate introduced the academic advising bill, SGAB-51004 Advising Reform and Graduation Success Act, that calls for UH to lower the advisor-to-student ratio on campus and allow for various requirements to be set in place in order to ensure that students receive quality advising.

SGA President Charles Haston has met with Provost Paula Short, as well as Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Student Success Teri Longacre throughout the summer to collaborate on the bill and ensure maximum success for the students and the University.

“We hear from students all the time that there are advising issues,” Haston said. “We started working with the Provost’s office, probably back right before summer started, and started asking for several things. We need data. Not only from our perspective, but to be effective all throughout the University. You have to be able to quantify results.”

BEHIND THE NUMBERS

One National Academic Advising Association recommendation would help move UH toward its goal of gaining Tier One status. The NACADA recommends that the advisor-to-student ratio be an average of 250 students to every one advisor throughout the University. UH currently stands at an average 293:1 ratio, an improvement from last school year when the ratio was 381:1.

“One aspect of the University’s student success goal is to create an environment in which student success can be ensured,” said Longacre. “Effective advising can help ensure that students stay on track to meet their educational and career goals by ensuring that they are enrolling in proper courses and in sufficient credit hours. Advisors can also play a critical role in identifying barriers to student success and connecting students with appropriate resources.”

Davies

Colleen Davies, one of two Bauer Honors advisors, during a session. Niche programs like the Bauer Honors Program have approximately 150 students to each advisor. | Photo courtesy of the C.T. Bauer College of Business

Larger colleges within UH, such as the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, have higher advisor ratios because their number of students is far greater, with ratios ranging from 500 to 600 students per one advisor, according to SGA Senator Enrique Martinez. In order to ensure that every advising session on campus is up to standards, the bill suggests mandatory holds every thirty hours and surveys that are e-mailed to students after each advising session.

According to Haston, about 50 to 75 percent of time in advising sessions is dedicated to scheduling classes for the student.

“If we can take that piece out and make advising what it really needs to be — helping students make academic choices for their careers — I think we can really change the dynamics of what advising is,” Haston said.

Some colleges at UH contain special programs that create better student-to-advisor ratios because the number of students within the program is less, such as the Bauer Business Honors Program within the C.T. Bauer College of Business. SGA and the administration are working together to meet standards throughout the University and not just the smaller colleges and programs.

“We want the advisor to be able to counsel the student more than just run them through a spin factor,” Martinez said. “We want the counselors to be aware that student might be intimidated to ask certain questions, so we want it to be a goal for the students to be able to talk to their advisors about certain things.”

PAYING FOR IT

However, with more advisors comes more salaries and benefits that need to be provided by the University. Increased tuition or student fees have been discussed as a way to supplement the deficit. The most recent tuition increase came in 2013, when UH raised prices by $13 per every undergraduate semester hour taken. State funding for the University has decreased tremendously, going from 55 percent state funding to 22 percent.

“(Advising is) the thing that we want to accomplish,” Haston said. “Raising tuition is a touchy subject at any school, most especially at this university and we are very cognizant of that. There has to be a balance between meeting our student’s financial needs and meeting their academic needs, and right now we’re not meeting their academic needs.”

SGA will try to prevent further tuition increases to keep the financial burden of the bill off student’s backs.

“We have got to start doing the things necessary to ensure that we don’t actually have to bear the burden on students,” Haston said. “I think that there are a lot of alumni that would probably be interested in helping support (this bill financially), going beyond just scholarships and chairs.”

The bill also includes a system that profiles students and keeps record of their advising meetings, the content of those meetings, and their career goals, according to Martinez. Certain schools such as the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication book appointments through myUH, and Haston is a proponent of making this a campus-wide standard for all colleges.

“We really want to assess, for the first time, in a large-scale way, how advisors are doing,” Haston said. “I want us to train advisors and really put us in the position where we can start getting some change and identify what problems are and what we would be able to do.”

While SGA does not pass legislation that is binding, meaning that the administration can change the bill once it is passed, SGA and the administration are working together to ensure that students at UH get the highest quality education and, hopefully with the help of more advisors and higher quality sessions, more on-time graduates.

“(SGA) has developed a really great working relationship with Dr. Longacre,” Haston said. “She’s really the point person on this and we’ve got the Provost on this. We have received really positive feedback.”

“This bill demonstrates students’ recognition of the role that advising plays in supporting student success and their commitment to promoting high quality advising experiences campus-wide,” Longacre said. “This type of student involvement in advising reform will undoubtedly have a positive impact on student-advisor relationships advancing our student success goals.”

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