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Advising services stretched thin by cuts

In a tough economic climate that has prompted UNC-system campuses to pare down administrative staffs, schools are adapting — or drastically reducing — their academic advising services.

UNC-Pembroke’s faculty has been increasingly burdened with the responsibility of serving as stand-in advisers, in addition to teaching, said Ken Kitts, UNC-P’s provost and vice chancellor of the Office of Academic Affairs. The school only employs two professional full-time academic advisers.

“Where we really felt the pinch was with professional advisers,” he said. “We’ve been severely understaffed there.”

UNC-P has about 5,500 undergraduates enrolled.

The school has proposed a 4.3 percent increase in tuition and fees, part of which would be designated for student support.

The university’s plans include creating a one-stop advising center for students housed in existing student services buildings, Kitts said.

“At the minimum, the office would be able to play traffic cop and get the student to the right resource on campus,” Kitts said.

Steve Roberson, the dean of undergraduate studies at UNC-Greensboro, said the school’s advising is decentralized, with each school and college having its own advising unit.

“Some of these units have experienced some budget cuts,” Roberson said.

“In the last two budget-cutting cycles, some have lost staff they haven’t been able to replace.”

UNC-G has created the Students First Office to combat reduced funding. The office has a small staff that supports students with any kind of academic issue, he said.

“It is an academic triage service as well as for basic academic questions,” he said.

At UNC-CH, only one full-time professional academic adviser and one full-time staff member have been cut, said Lee May, associate dean and director of academic advising.

The department supports 27 full-time advisers, eight lecture advisers that represent the college’s eight largest departments and about 15 part-time faculty advisers, May said.

The University’s adviser-to-student ratio currently stands at about 1 to 600, which is more than double the National Academic Advising Association standards, she said.

To improve student access to advising, the department expanded walk-in appointment times about a year ago, May said. The department has also provided informational podcasts on its website.

“With budget cuts and less money available, we had to think outside the box about getting better information to students in a way that they like to receive it,” May said.

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