American higher education is facing several significant challenges: rapidly rising tuitions, a lack of support from politicians and the public in general, a demand for higher graduation rates, and the lack of a clear articulation of mission. Coping with these issues and many others is a formidable task. No matter what possible solutions and alternative approaches are on the horizon, a new social contract with students needs to be enacted so that students can fully experience and appreciate the path in higher education that they have chosen. Academic advising is at the core of implementing this new contract and is prepared to immediately respond with programs and student/adviser interactions. The purposes of academic advising accommodate all students so that they can make reasoned decisions as they set and enact the goals of their lives.

Much criticism is being heaped on American higher education. The barbs are wide-ranging and come from many sources. Once enjoying a stellar reputation as the world's best higher education system (the model for all to replicate), American higher education has now been tarnished by an ominous set of circumstances. Spokespersons for American higher education unfortunately tend to respond defensively to criticism, rarely acknowledging any validity to the notion that the system, at the very least, needs to be tweaked and, at its worst, is faced with insurmountable challenges that call for a major overhaul.


A fundamental criticism of twenty-first-century American higher education is its mounting costs. Rising tuition and fees by themselves might be expected. However, this increase occurred at the same time as students took out loans (some quite substantial) to finance their educations and jobs at graduation were not as plentiful as in the past. The circumstance of students (some who do not even graduate) “mortgaging” their futures with substantial loans and little ability to repay them has called into question the usefulness of a college degree and the integrity of a system that has produced a generation with a bleak future.


At the same time as the costs of higher education are being lamented, a call for more accessibility is being heard. As a corollary to the accessibility conundrum, particularly as completion rates are being examined, there are suggestions that higher education is not for all and that colleges and universities are overburdened with unprepared, underprepared, and unmotivated students who cannot see themselves through to graduation yet are still assuming significant loan debt.

Other Issues

Added to these factors are the debates over who should teach, the balance between research and teaching, the value of tenure, how to newly define or redefine the mission of higher education, the nature of the curriculum (with special attention on general education), new modes of instruction, grade inflation, and the assessment of educational outcomes. To tackle all of these challenges is a formidable task.


The question of who should make up the teaching force on American campuses is already answered by the demographics. The continual increase in the use of adjunct and fixed-term appointments to the point that these individuals constitute more than 50 percent of the teaching population suggests that returning to a primarily tenure-tracked faculty is not possible or even a goal. Yet the arguments over adjunct instructors’ salaries, benefits, their voice in collegiate governance, and whether or not they are “better” teachers than those on the tenure track continue.

Even while the number of tenure-track faculty diminishes, calls for the abandonment of the tenure system persist. Sometimes politically motivated and sometimes emanating from an economic and workforce perspective, to some critics of higher education, the concept of tenure has lost its value. The end result of having a faculty with the freedom to pursue their own research agendas and to speak to collegiate issues (or any issue, for that matter) without fear of reprisal has given way, some critics argue, to a cadre of faculty who no longer produce research, teach few hours per semester, and remain on the payrolls well past their productivity, all while commanding substantial salaries. Such a workforce employment pattern does not allow for a reasonable number of new faculty to enter the system (assuming that new instructors are even available) when the tenured faculty finally choose to retire.

Mission and Goals

Overarching all of these issues is the discussion of the mission and goals of American higher education. Three themes emerge: facilitating the upward mobility of the American population (which translates into career preparation), ensuring the democratic future of the nation with civically minded persons, and assessing the viability of the higher education enterprise. These discussions overlap with the arguments regarding the nature of the curriculum. Faced with a huge knowledge explosion and the tension in offering a general education program to students while still fulfilling the requirements of majors, the upper limits of credits for each category (and for the total degree as well) are passionately argued. Contributing to this discussion are the critics who believe that universities offer “useless” majors and thus students should choose those majors that might guarantee jobs and a livable wage immediately upon graduation.


The introduction of new technologies into the classroom, coupled with the realization that all students in higher education are not taught in a residential setting, has spurred an active discussion about how students are actually taught. The traditional classroom with not much more than a blackboard and some chalk is giving way to the technologically enhanced classroom. But more significant is the “classroom” experience offered through the computer, where thousands of students can access knowledge for their own personal fulfillment. Whether this approach replaces the current configuration of instruction or supplements the faculty/students in the classroom model is still to be determined, as the massive open online course initiative continues to unfold.


While new teaching methods and venues change, as curricula continue to morph on almost a daily basis, and as more students access higher education, assessment continues to be a topic both embraced and rebuffed. Regional accrediting agencies, criticized themselves for not being able to certify a quality education, have mandated that colleges and universities embrace assessment as part of their culture. Having assessment measures will enable both colleges and universities and regional accrediting agencies to demonstrate that state and federal funds used to support institutions and their students are well spent.

Ironically, the final grade for a class as a symbol for learning outcomes has been tarnished as grade inflation has swept over American higher education, to the extent that the vast majority of Harvard students graduate with an A or A–average. Just what does this close-to-4.00 cumulative grade point average mean? As an assessment tool it might suggest that instruction at Harvard is at the very highest levels and results in superior academic outputs for all enrolled students. Or do these grades represent an agreement between students (and their parents) and the instructors that the high cost of a Harvard education demands A grades in return? Such a deal might be one of the results of the commercialization of higher education, when costs and grades inflate simultaneously and students and their parents are referred to as customers in the same way that General Motors views the driving public as customers.

While the final letter grade as an assessment measure has lost its luster, new measures have not been wholeheartedly embraced across the entire spectrum of American higher education. Particular professional discipline-based test scores, available even before the assessment movement gained traction, continue to be used, but conceptually sound assessment measures for the traditional liberal arts fields still seem to elude.

Satisfaction scales, measures of engagement in the educational process, and student-generated ratings of instructor effectiveness have gained their advocates. Yet all these measures have enough critics that the search for valid measures continues. Current approaches to assessment are mostly descriptive and highly correlated with students’ grades and thus are not especially useful for improving instruction.

The struggle to find valid measures for what students have learned that go beyond “the facts” is compounded by the imperative that colleges and universities graduate a higher number of students than they currently do. Thus colleges and universities lucky enough to be able to raise their admissions standards can respond to the graduation imperative quite easily. (Except the rub here is that this often results in a less diverse student body.) Such actions counter the prevailing notion that American institutions of higher education should embrace diversity within their student population. The argument, though, that not enough well-qualified diverse students are available does not meet with much of a positive response from those who propound that American higher education should be mostly about access for all.

Admissions, Attrition, Retention, and Graduation Rates

Those colleges and universities that cannot raise their standards while still satisfying their need for a diverse student body and adequately filling their first-year classes are faced with admitting a vast percentage of students who apply. Once these students are admitted, the challenge to raise graduation rates must be dealt with immediately. Despite the abundance of literature that provides many interventions that claim success in raising graduation rates, a macro analysis of graduation rates suggests that they have remained relatively flat over the years. Clearly there has been no silver bullet (except for raising admissions standards and sweetening the pot with grade inflation).

The old command “Look to your left and look to your right, one of you won't be here in a year,” along with a “survival of the fittest” mentality—long the approach taken by institutions when there were plenty of students to substitute for those who leave prematurely—has been replaced with a more humane, although not necessarily more effective, approach to handling attrition. To keep more students enrolled, colleges and universities have implemented numerous approaches to meet the challenge: remedial courses for those not ready for the standard introductory courses, tutoring, study skills counseling, a physical environment as comfortable—or more so—than one's own home, and access to all the latest bells and whistles that students supposedly want (climbing walls, exercise equipment, single rooms in residence halls). Not only must students be retained because they are academically meeting institutional standards, but they also must be convinced that the extra perks provided them are more appealing than the competition's down the road, in the next state, or across the country. As institutions continue to strive for national reputations, which hold the promise of yielding more outside funding and are driven by the much-read magazines that rate colleges and universities, students are swept along in this wave of collegiate ambition. It appears clear that the nature of our physical plants can attract students (no campus should be without a lake or pond). The job, however, of keeping students academically engaged has not shown itself to be quite as easy as putting up a new intramural gymnasium or adding another Starbucks to the student union.

Intercollegiate Athletics

Emblematic of the plethora of challenges facing American higher education is the one surrounding intercollegiate athletics. How intercollegiate athletics fits into the mission of higher education can be hotly debated as to its educational value, but there is no argument that a financially successful intercollegiate athletic program accomplishes its goal for the fiscal side of the house. But scandals in intercollegiate athletics, especially at Division I institutions, can damage the reputations of the athletic programs and of the institutions as a whole. Thus the impulse to protect reputations (or to claim ignorance of infractions), rather than institutional integrity, can be overpowering. When an institution loses ultimate control (or to a lesser extent, oversight) over departmental course offerings and grading policy and cannot guard against such infractions as creating “dummy” courses with virtually no requirements and a grading scheme designed to keep student athletes eligible, the viability of the overly decentralized approach to administrative structure in higher education is called into question. Clearly, in such an environment, measuring learning outcomes is impossible. To argue that students who have engaged in such a sham are being maintained in higher education (a good thing) or that “everybody does it” is the height of cynicism.

Sexual Assaults

American colleges and universities are no strangers to sexual assaults by their students. Handling adjudication within institutions’ judicial systems has been the modus operandi. However, how sanctions on the accused have been handed down, how the judicial process has dealt with the accuser, and even the very appropriateness of such cases being handled on campus rather than by local judicial systems are common questions. As more publicity has been given to sexual violence on campus, American higher education has found itself in the limelight as it struggles with balancing the rights of all involved, the mandates to make assault figures available to the public, and the subsequent possible damages to an institution's reputation.

The Case for a New Social Contract

For any observer of the American higher education scene, one approach to the current situation can be to ignore it by accepting the premise that all is not as bad as reported. In fact, American higher education still outshines higher education in the rest of the world in many aspects. At the other end of the spectrum is the imperative that the challenges must be met (perhaps not all of them, but a great many), lest the system collapse under the weight of its many issues.

Accepting the status quo does not seem to be particularly prudent. While the depth of the dysfunction might be questioned, the time to either strengthen the current paradigms or advance new ones is now. Innovation at the margins is especially too cautious, leading only to insignificant change. Given the prevailing clamor, the time appears appropriate to draw a new social contract for the providers and recipients of higher education. To a great extent students are at the core of this endeavor. They come to higher education with many expectations (or perhaps none). They finance most of their own higher education with a combination of their own dollars, their families’ resources, loans (from federal, state, and private lenders), and outright grants.

Because of this heavy investment, all concerned desire that students get the most out of their option to participate in higher education. What seems apparent is that, on the whole, the money is not always well spent, from the perspective both of the student and of those who foot part (or all) of the bill. The current contract, which depends upon having faith that students will learn as they engage in higher education, that employment postgraduation will be readily available in environments where newly learned skills can be used, and that society as a whole considers the portion of taxes that supports students in higher education well spent, has been seriously compromised.

Although the challenges to higher education may be confronted piecemeal (taking them all on at once seems overwhelming), renewing the social contract with students can readily be achieved within the context of academic advising. While students are ultimately responsible for their own educations, leaving them adrift in a sea of arcane rules and never-before-heard-of majors and minors, with many choices to be made and ill-prepared to make them and with “poor decisions” having dire consequences, certainly benign neglect (or a rose-colored notion that students can figure everything out for themselves) is, at best, naive and, at worst, unethical: “As a result, too many students squander those formative years. If they manage to make sense of what their education adds up to, they do so by accident or on their own. But educators uncomfortable with that reality are trying to shift it. While colleges won't return to dictating moral development, some are now guiding students with a firmer hand. They are bolstering advising, trying to connect what students do in and outside of class, and explicitly identifying the learning that happens in various corners of campus. In sum, treating a college education as a holistic, cohesive experience” (Berrett, 2014).

Some configuration of academic advising is available at all American higher education institutions. In fact, academic advising is capable of reaching every single student enrolled at an institution, a claim not easily made by any other enterprise on a university or college campus. Within the context of academic advising the goals and mission of an institution can be communicated to students, the rationale and structure of the general education program can be interpreted, and students can have the opportunity to blend together all aspects of the curriculum into a meaningful experience.

With academic advising structures already in place, the opportunities to enhance such structures are limited only by the creativity and will of those charged with delivering advising. Central to the implementation of successful academic advising is the premise that all students should be assigned a primary academic adviser housed in a designated academic unit of the institution. Reasonable advisee rosters, for both faculty who advise and professional advisers, can be accomplished without significant investments in personnel but with reasonable reassignments of responsibilities, if necessary, for existing personnel.

The Impact of Academic Advising

The use of metaphors to understand academic advising is no longer necessary. Equating academic advising with teaching, mentoring, counseling, and coaching, for example, helped a burgeoning profession to explain itself. Now after a generation of theory building and analysis of practice, what emerges is a unique and informed endeavor with its own mission. This mission is accomplished by individuals with the expertise to implement the goals of academic advising.

An appreciation of the value of academic advising as part of higher education culture started to come into focus with the publication of Burns Crookston's article—“A Developmental View of Academic Advising,” in the Journal of College Student Personnel (1972)—where he urged a move away from what he termed a prescriptive form of advising to more of a developmental approach. Latching onto the developmental imperative for academic advising, suggesting that students be viewed in their entirety and that telling them what to take each semester (and nothing more) was not sufficient, advising personnel in universities and colleges found the Crookston rationale for their work at just the right time. He gave academic advisers the language to proclaim that their work was certainly much more than schedule planning and that the outcomes of their work could, indeed, be significant.

Since the establishment of the elective system more than one hundred years ago, higher education institutions realized that giving students free rein to choose what they wanted did not result in a coherent program of study. As curricula became more complex, the need to help students navigate their options became even more apparent. As early as 1906, Stanford University realized: “Of all forms of guarding the elective system against ill-considered choices, the adviser relation promises the most.” However, “the pattern exhibited in 1906—extolling the importance of undergraduate advising while delivering it poorly—would persist for the next century” (Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford University, 2012, p. 83). Stanford concedes that academic advising has been important to the institution since virtually its founding, but viable solutions have eluded the university. And in the twenty-first century, the president of the University of Virginia has acknowledged: “Even those of us who are many years removed from our undergraduate days remember the trepidation we felt when facing the multitude of choices presented by college life. Within a relatively short time span, students must make decisions about which classes to take, which major (or majors) to select, which research projects to choose, how to manage their time outside of the classroom, and, eventually, which career to pursue, among other daily choices. Personal, academic and professional decisions come at them rapid-fire” (Sullivan, 2013, p. 61).

While Stanford University laments the lack of progress in its academic advising system and the University of Virginia strives to make advising central to its initiatives as it enters its third century, the most compelling course of action for the profession of academic advising is to assert its own centrality and ready itself to acknowledge that a new paradigm, based on a unifying vision of educational purpose, is needed to guide American higher education out of its current circumstances. This new paradigm should be based on a view that educational goals and purposes need to be extended beyond acquiring knowledge to include the development of individual students’ capacities for personal empowerment as autonomous intellectual agents.

Academic advising is core to this new paradigm, continuing the more-than-a-century-old notion that students of higher education should not proceed through their educations unassisted. The proclamation from Stanford University—“Fewer issues have occasioned such sustained discussion at Stanford as undergraduate advising. Fewer still have so stubbornly resisted solution” (Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford University, 2012, p. 83)—demands that academic advising needs to capture the moment, assert its centrality, and abandon nonproductive arguments to demonstrate that Stanford's conundrum can easily be resolved.

Academic advising has the unique capability to reach all students enrolled at any particular institution. Either by mandate or by virtue of students finding their own value in meeting with an adviser, academic advising has been identified as the one endeavor in higher education that is structured in such a way as to have an impact on all students. Such a characteristic allows academic advising to take this central role in a student's life. For academic advising to thrive, it needs to embrace this position fully.

First, it is possible to assign all students at an institution to a designated academic adviser. This condition—allowing all students to have their own academic adviser—cannot be minimized. For it is within this relationship between students and advisers that students have the chance to craft their own educations, understand the paths they have chosen, and use the skills and knowledge obtained within work, civic, and personal arenas for the rest of their lives.

Academic advising has the capability to reach all students by creating a culture of learning with an emphasis on the individual student. Advising can be conducted in many venues—one-to-one, in groups (both within the classroom and without), online, and at a distance—and can use all of the latest communication technologies. In this way, academic advising has demonstrated that it can respond to all varieties of students with all mechanisms of communication.

What academic advising provides to both the institution and the student goes right to the heart of what higher education is all about. To assert only that academic advising is a common good, and that in collaboration with other initiatives at the institution it is able to deliver better graduation rates, is not sufficient. Clearly no one area is better able to explain the arcane rules of an institution to students so that they do not stumble and get off track unnecessarily. However, the ultimate goal of a fully functioning academic advising program is to engage students as scholars, thus transforming the student experience. Academic advisers work with students to enable them to be confident and assertive in their own abilities to learn, generate, and apply new knowledge and to empower them to embrace their own knowing, learning, thinking, and decision making.

Students have a need to make sense of their own educations. Some need to confirm their original choices of both institution and educational goals. Some students change their institutions (sometimes many times), and some change their educational goals (sometimes many times). Some choose to opt out of higher education. None of these decisions, though, need be done alone; rather, all can be accomplished within the context of a relationship with a dedicated person, operating within the framework of an informed practice.

For any academic advising program to function optimally a number of premises should be embraced. If they have not done so already, those in charge of academic advising should abandon the notion that academic advising is, first and foremost, a service. While providing services to students should not be denigrated (there are, indeed, many services that students need), the success of academic advising rests with acknowledging that it is as much a part of an institution's educational mission as is disciplinary instruction. In fact, identifying academic advising as a service leads to erroneous expectations and inappropriate assessments. Such identification also deflects the attention of academic advising administrators away from optimizing the true nature of the endeavor.

Services, by their very nature, suggest that assessment focus on satisfaction. When academic advising assessment focuses on the satisfaction aspects of the experience, the learning outcomes of advising are often obscured and the significant mission of academic advising is lost. Of course, it is important that students receive courteous treatment from those in the academic advising community. This is a baseline condition that must always be met. One major university in its strategic planning process, as part of a drive to achieve the very highest levels of national (and international) recognition, propounds that academic advising service must be improved. This mistake in language might lead to more satisfied students, but will these students have learned anything by being the clients or customers of a service rather than equal participants in a learning process?

Once academic advising is viewed as totally embedded within a student's educational experience, more attention can be paid to a valid assessment of learning outcomes. While universally acceptable measures of learning outcomes have eluded some of the disciplines and the general education portion of the curriculum, academic advising is in the enviable position to measure learning outcomes with surveys, questionnaires, and personal interviews that get right to the heart of the matter: that is, directly asking students what they learn (and how they apply their learning) as the result of their advising interactions. Such assessment allows questions such as “Did the students learn what we wanted them to learn?” to be answered with enough precision to make valid assessments as to how well advising is meeting its goals.

With direct access to students, assessment can be made immediately upon the completion of an advising session, several days (even years) later, or even within the context of the advising interview itself. Historically students have been forthcoming in response to their attitudes toward academic advising. Yet these prompts often only asked for some sense of satisfaction with the adviser. Typically questions related to learning outcomes have been absent, and thus this significant outcome for academic advising does not get assessed. Approaching the assessment of academic advising from a learning outcomes perspective allows for a more thorough understanding of the advising relationship and the nature of the learning process and affords opportunities to ensure that the defined learning outcomes are met while allowing, when necessary, adjustments to the advising practice.

In addition to fully accepting the educative model of academic advising, several other premises should be embraced, while some discussions within the field should be abandoned. For example, the debate over academic advising as a profession is no longer fruitful. Current standards of practice have already established that a master's degree is the entry level for practice. Ethical standards for professional behavior have been written. Journals publish articles relevant to academic advising, and doctoral dissertations focusing on many aspects of academic advising have been produced.

There is also little doubt that when an academic adviser gives inaccurate information, the result can be a disastrous circumstance, such as a delay in graduation. Such a consequence could lead to the outlay of additional money and even, perhaps, the loss of job opportunities. These are dire consequences indicating that the impact of the academic advising relationship can be either deleterious or beneficial for the student.

Academic advisers can now enjoy affiliation with an international association of more than twelve thousand members dedicated solely to the advancement of academic advising on a global scale. Monographs, books, and articles, both in print and online, are continually being published to enhance the practice. Webinars and conferences at the regional, national, and international levels are also provided.

Graduate-level courses in academic advising have been developed and continue to be developed, while the emergence of a master's degree solely in academic advising is now a reality. All of these conditions speak to meeting the criteria to be called a profession; quibbling over the nuances of how experts define what constitutes a profession is futile. Professional status for academic advising has been achieved.

Academic advising is now at the stage where the use of metaphors (teaching, mentoring, counseling, coaching) to help explain it can be abandoned. Nor does the field have to debate any longer that developmental advising must replace prescriptive advising as advanced by Crookston in his seminal article. What followed quite naturally after the publication of the Crookston article was the denigration of prescriptive advising and the establishment of developmental advising as orthodoxy. As with most orthodoxies, there came a time to question the acceptance of only one approach to academic advising. Scholars of academic advising now examine and purport other approaches to advising, drawing from theories of how relationships are constructed and how students learn. As other theories are accommodated and the advising practiced is systematically examined, the advising relationship now suggests that a new practice has taken root on American campuses to fulfill a need in response to curricular and institutional developments.

For academic advising to flourish, it is imperative to continually examine the nature of the endeavor. To be open to new constructs is critical; to examine the field as it is practiced by advisers in their individual offices, in groups, and online is vital to understanding it. A scholarly imperative needs a healthy inquisitiveness to thoughtfully examine the current practices of academic advising and to develop new knowledge of how it can be practiced.

A question that is often posed is: Who should be providing academic advising on our campuses—staff or faculty? The discussion can be intense and often has a partisan tone. The pros and cons take on all forms: Only faculty should advise since they are the most knowledgeable and tend to have the highest degrees; staff advisers are better because their attention is not divided and they can devote their full energies to their roles as advisers. Others argue that a combination makes the most sense. Some claim that since faculty advise as part of their job responsibilities, this does not represent additional costs to the institutions, while the hiring of staff advisers represents adding personnel, often at the expense of hiring new faculty.

Proponents for staff advisers argue that staffs are much more up-to-date on their information and that evaluations and rewards for staff advisers are more readily identified than for faculty who advise. Proponents for faculty who advise maintain that staff advisers do not have the in-depth knowledge of specific disciplines or the world of work for a particular field and thus provide less-than-exemplary advising.

Perhaps this tension can best be understood by looking at the historical development of academic advising. Coming from a faculty model, the introduction of staff advisers was mostly a second-half-of-the-twentieth-century phenomenon. And as the demands on faculty, especially at research universities, continued to grow at the same time as the need for more academic advising was prevalent, the evolution of the staff academic adviser coming from the counseling and academic deans’ offices was a natural consequence of these demands.

While the friction that this creates can sometimes turn to acrimony, ultimately the question of staff advisers versus faculty advisers is not the question to be asked. It is important that, whoever is chosen to be an academic adviser on a college or university campus, this decision is made either centrally or at the departmental level. What is most vital is that whoever performs this role is well trained, well evaluated, well rewarded, and fully engaged in the role. Expecting anything less jeopardizes the entire academic advising endeavor and shortchanges the students.

One of the most compelling issues facing contemporary American colleges and universities is how to increase retention and quicken time to graduation. With the demand for more access, while institutions simultaneously want to raise the quality of the student body—and consequently their reputations—and to deflect the criticism that too many students do not graduate, the solution (or most likely the solutions) to raising retention (and ultimately graduation) rates has been elusive. Certainly a quality academic advising program is at the core of any campus retention initiative. One proponent for quality academic advising is Francisco G. Cigarroa (2014), chancellor of the University of Texas System, who enthusiastically points out: “All of our institutions participate in national initiatives to improve student success and work with renowned experts in the field, bringing high impact practices back to our campuses. Last year, [the University of Texas] San Antonio consulted leading professionals to help them redesign their academic advising operations, improve student retention and reduce time to degree” (p. A-15).

Despite the centrality of academic advising to any retention initiative, there are almost as many reasons for students leaving school as there are students. Retention should be an institution-wide mission, with quality academic advising as one of the major identifiers to be associated with a positive outcome.

As American higher education moves ahead, coping with all the issues it is facing, one premise should not be ignored: if students do not understand why they are in college, do not understand the nature of the curriculum they have chosen to study, do not avail themselves of all the educational experiences, and at some level are not fully engaged in their own educational experience, then retention rates will continue to remain stagnant. Investing resources in the latest retention initiative will only result in a futile drive to solve what might be the unsolvable conundrum of striving for more access to higher education while increasing graduation rates. So far any positive results have been localized; at the macro level, the data are unimpressive.

The opportunity to install a fully functioning academic advising program at any American college or university requires commitment from the upper levels of administration. In an era of tight money, it is ironic that such a commitment may involve little or no costs since most institutions already have professional staff advisers in place and those that depend on faculty do so often without much, if any, extra compensation for the advising responsibilities. To function optimally, renewed emphasis on the adjective academic in front of advising can suffice. There is no need to dilute the role of the adviser, because an academic adviser can do so much. Rather, it is a refocus to the current expectations of academic advising that can be most beneficial to students and their institutions.

nacada: The Global Community for Academic Advising (2006) lays out the advising imperative:

Academic advising is integral to fulfilling the teaching and learning mission of higher education. Through academic advising, students learn to become members of their higher education community, to think critically about their roles and responsibilities as students, and to prepare to be educated citizens of a democratic society and a global community. Academic advising engages students beyond their own world views, while acknowledging their individual characteristics, values, and motivations as they enter, move through, and exit the institution. Regardless of the diversity of our institutions, our students, our advisors, and our organizational structures, academic advising has three components: curriculum (what advising deals with), pedagogy (how advising does what it does), and student learning outcomes (the result of academic advising).

A wide spectrum of students are in attendance at American institutions of higher education. Some are totally engrossed in the enterprise, while some are so disengaged that one has to question why the students would want to be enrolled at all.

Avoiding the challenges to higher education is no longer an option. New responses suggest that a new social contract where students are empowered to craft their own educations be enacted. In essence, students must own the many choices that have to be made, not only to navigate the many possible lanes open to them but also to fully benefit from these experiences. Academic advising is central to this mission.

Providing students with new majors, a new general education curriculum, new co-curricular options, and resort-like facilities will not energize students unless they fully comprehend why they have chosen the path of higher education, know how to stay on course, and realize that the choices they make have consequences for the rest of their lives. With optimal academic advising programs, American higher education can meet the obstacles ahead, producing better citizens empowered to use their educations for their own betterment and for the benefit of their nation and the world.

Works Cited

Berrett, D. (2014, November 10). Now, everything has a learning outcome. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Now-Everything-Has-a-Learning/149897/.
Cigarroa, F. (2014, November 22). Focus on students’ needs growing. Austin American-Statesman, A-15.
Crookston, B. B. (1972). A developmental view of academic advising. Journal of College Student Personnel, 13, 12–17.
nacada: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2006). nacada concept of academic advising. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View/Articles/Concept-of-Academic-Advising-a598.aspx.
Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford University. (2012). The Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford University. Retrieved from http://web.stanford.edu/dept/ undergrad/sues/SUES_Report.pdf.
Sullivan, T. A. (2013, Winter). A message from the president: Good advice. University of Virginia Magazine, 102(4), 61.
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