Since the 1991-92 school year, the Board of Governors' biennial survey has consistently shown that UNC-Chapel Hill sophomores and seniors evaluate academic advising services the lowest among all sophomores and seniors at the 16 UNC-system schools.
In response to these low ratings, administrators have been adding full-time advisers and revamping the advising system's Web site for the past two years.
It is unclear whether the changes will bring the University's rating up in the next BOG survey in the spring of 2002.
But UNC-CH officials are confident that the surveys the University conducted in the past year reflect the impact of efforts to improve advising.
"The surveys we conducted in 2000 and 2001 were conducted because in earlier survey results, we had been so low," said Bernadette Gray-Little, senior associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Arts and Sciences. "We wanted to see the effects of the changes."
In November 2000, the UNC-CH Office of Institutional Research polled 1,144 freshmen by e-mailing them and asking them to go to a Web site to answer questions about the advising system. The April 2001 survey, which UNC administered through a local consulting firm, polled 1,045 sophomores by telephone.
The BOG also conducts its surveys by e-mailing students, Gray-Little said.
And while the latest BOG survey, conducted in spring 2000, showed that 49.4 percent of sophomores rated UNC-CH advising as "excellent" or "good," the UNC-CH survey in April 2001 showed that 75 percent of sophomores would describe UNC-CH advising as "excellent" or "good."
Gray-Little said she was pleased with the results of UNC-CH's surveys. "We expected to see some improvement in two years, but I don't know if I would've expected so much improvement."
The surveys also showed that students felt that accessibility to advisers had improved. UNC-CH's April 2001 survey showed a 31 percentage point gain in sophomores rating access to advisers as "excellent" or "good" survey as compared to the latest BOG survey.
Gray-Little said access was a main student complaint with the previous system.
The system added eight full-time advisers in fall 1999 and five more last year. Administrators upgraded the Web site, including adding a calendar that allows students to schedule appointments online and an electronic degree audit that allows students to see how many more courses they need to fulfill different majors.
Ryan Keller, a senior biology major, said he's seen the effect of these changes. "I think the advisers I'm dealing with are a lot more friendly and a lot more interested at looking at every facet," he said. "Before, they seemed to be rushing."
Donald Jicha, a part-time adviser who has been with the system for 39 years, said the addition of the full-time advisers gives students access to advisers almost at will. "Students don't like to wait," Jicha said. "They like to pop in, and they like to pop in with lengthy questions."
But Jicha said the advising system's biggest problem is sometimes just getting students in the door. "There's always a full-time adviser available, but now it's a question of whether students will come in to use that service."
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