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Academic Advising and Student Retention, Summary of two papers by Joe Cuseo

Recently the problem of student attrition has been presented to me as something our Facebook solution might impact.  So, I’ve been digging.  By far the best read on this are written by Joseph Cuseo, a professor of Psychology at Marymount College.  I’m going to highlight some of his points about retention and brick-and-mortar solutions.

First, it’s a big problem.  25% attrition at four year universities, 50% at two year universities.  At some schools, each lost student is tens of thousands of dollars of revenue.

Retention is more cost effective to address than recruitment, it can can cost as little as 1/5 the cost of recruiting a new student.  If a school is trying to improve its bottom line, it’s easier to focus on retention.

Advising programs that structure, recruit, train and incentivize outstanding advisors have greater success rates than those that are simply voluntary.

Good advising improves retention by 25% over  “poor advising” and 40% over no advising.

Contact with faculty outside the classroom is the single biggest determinant of student satisfaction with their institution.

Here are some recommendations by Joe:

  • Provide strong incentives and rewards for advisors to engage in high-quality advisin
  • Strengthen advisor orientation, training, and development, and deliver them as essential components of the institution’s faculty/staff development program.
  • Faculty are probably least prepared when it comes to academic advising; this can be solved by professional development programs before they enter the programs
  • Assess and evaluate the quality of academic advisement.
    Maintain advisee-to-advisor ratios that are small enough to enable delivery of personalized advising
  • Provide strong incentives for students to meet regularly with their advisors
  • Identify highly effective advisors and “front load” them—i.e., position them at the front (start) of the college experience to work with first-year students, particularly first-year students who may be “at risk” for attrition.
  • Include advising effectiveness as one criterion for recruiting and selecting new faculty.


Cuseo, Joseph.  Fiscal Benefits of Student Retention and First-Year Retention Initiatives

Cuseo, Joseph.  Academic Advisement and Student Retention: Empirical Connections & System Interventions

One Response to “Academic Advising and Student Retention, Summary of two papers by Joe Cuseo”

  1. Jim King October 20, 2008 at 2:17 pm #

    Student attrition is a big problem in nursing programs. While there are many factors involved, do we adequately prepare students in highschool for the rigors of college? Are there any colleges that have developed successful retention programs? When a student fails, it has an effect on our communities.

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