At Temple, the role of an academic adviser is to assist students with course planning, registering for classes, and academic counseling to help them progress toward their degree. However, students enrolled in the university prior to 2014 were only required to see an academic adviser for a graduation check.
That changed under the university’s “Fly in 4” program. Under the agreement, students are now required to meet a number of benchmarks, including having to see an academic adviser at least once a semester.
Around 88 percent of freshmen – 3,947 students – are enrolled in the program.
The university has hired 60 new advisers since 2006, including 10 in the 2013-14 academic year. However, only two have been hired this year.
“We really began to increase the number of advisers employed at Temple around four or five years ago,” said Peter Jones, senior vice provost for undergraduate studies. “It really began before President Theobald during the tenures of past presidents [Ann Weaver] Hart and [David] Adamany.”
Jodi Levine Laufgraben, the vice provost for academic affairs, assessment and institutional research, said one of the reasons for the investment in advisers over the past few years was to retain them with possibilities for career development and growth.
Jones agreed with Laufgraben, saying that advisers are now staying for longer periods of time.
“Before, people that entered academic advising at Temple were kind of stuck in that career,” he said. “Advisers were leaving for better jobs elsewhere. Now, there is a career path. We are having fewer turnovers in our advisers. Five years ago, we had an 18 percent adviser turnover rate. Now it is less than five [percent].”
Jones said the total number of full-time advisers employed at Temple is between 100 and 105. With 33,955 full-time students, that puts the student-adviser ratio at about 340 to 1.
According to a 2011 national study done by the National Academic Advising Association, the national median of students per advisers for a university with comparable enrollment to Temple was 600. The report warns that “these survey responses reflect important data, but they do not inform an ideal or recommended case load for advisers.”
Drexel University, with an enrollment of 26,359 students, has 96 undergraduate academic advisers and 108 graduate advisers, or 204 total advisers. That equals a student-per-adviser ratio of about 132 to 1.
Comparably, St. Joseph’s University employs 292 academic advisers for its 9,025 students, giving the university around a 31-to-1 student-per-adviser ratio.
La Salle University does not have a set adviser staff as professors and faculty handles student advising.
The University of Pennsylvania has an enrollment of 21,441 full-time students, although the university did not provide specific numbers on the amount of academic advisers it employs.
“We have 12 schools and hundreds of programs, all with a variety of advising structures for students,” Rob Nelson, executive director for education and academic planning at Penn, said in an email.
Among the Philadelphia universities, Villanova University employs the fewest number of academic advisers, employing 20 faculty advisers throughout its four schools and colleges. With 10,735 students enrolled, Villanova has a ratio of about 537 students per adviser.
Despite the investment Temple has made in its academic advisers, few students welcome having to meet with academic advisers regularly.
“While [academic advisers] may be nice people, they aren’t helpful,” Moshe Kravitz, a senior journalism major, said. “They don’t know the first thing about any student or care about them.”
“They just follow what the papers in front of them say and refuse to listen to you or understand anything else,” he added. “They give you limited time and are hard to get a hold of. I’m not sure if the advising system in the communications school could be less helpful.”
Jason Wong, a junior majoring in information, science and technology, has experienced the same feelings, especially after changing his major last year.
“Every time I would see an adviser it was repetitive,” Wong said. “They definitely could have made it so you have an adviser for your specific major and could then get to know you personally. It would help so much more.”
University administrators offered different thoughts on student reactions on academic advisers.
“Over 90 percent of those enrolled in ‘Fly in 4’ saw an adviser in the fall,” Laufgraben said. “It’s a really positive indicator.”
Jones agreed, adding that the investments in academic advisers allow advisers and students to be on the same page.
“With the changes and investments the university has made in its academic advisers, students are more engaged,” Jones said. “Students are now able to develop lasting relationships with their academic advisers.”
David Glovach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @DavidGlovach