A Data-driven Resource for Advising Reform

A Research and Action Collaboration for Advising Reform

About the Driving Toward a Degree Initiative

This research initiative is called “Driving Toward a Degree” to recognize institutions, their advising teams, and other student-facing staff who are working hard to help learners succeed.

What Planning and Advising Looks Like Today

Degree planning and academic advising is the nexus for improving student outcomes in higher education. The United States system of higher education is a gateway of opportunity for students from all over the world. Yet, the lackluster performance on degree completion is well documented: only 59% of students complete an undergraduate degree in 6 years; only 29% of students complete an associate degree within 3 years. There is not much debate about the severity of the problem; in our inaugural survey in 2016 82% of institutions have reportedly made student retention and success a strategic priority.

There is, however, considerable variation in how institutions are tackling the problem and at the center of this debate is the planning and advising function. The practice of planning and advising is facing mounting pressure to change in order to better serve the post-traditional student. Planning and advising departments have limited resources and high expectations for improvement. Planning and advising departments are expected to be the primary channel for the application of predictive analytics – a technology with much promise but few established best practices. With all of the attention, many planning and advising teams face initiative fatigue and administrations face unreasonably high expectations about how quickly change can be produced.

Establishing Effective Practices in Advising and Planning

The field of higher education needs to ground this sense of urgency in important context. There is a temptation to make quick use of “best practices” or to replicate the models of exemplar institutions. At the same time, the field has an unprecedented opportunity to make use of potentially powerful technology tools. Driving Toward a Degree is a data-driven resource for institutions to:

  1. Establish a baseline for the rate of adoption of planning and advising technology
  2. Use the Advising Reform Roadmap to identify and assess the most likely roadblocks that prevent an integrated system for student success
  3. Self-assess with an institutional segmentation that allows institutions to contextualize their approach to integrating advising