Advising First program honored for increasing student retention rate

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities has recognized Florida State University by naming it a High Tech, High Touch institution for the university’s innovative practices that contribute to retaining students.

From 2001 to 2013, Florida State’s first-to-second-year retention rate increased from 85.8 percent to 92 percent, establishing the university as a leader among public institutions in improving retention.

Key to this success is Florida State’s Advising First program within the Division of Undergraduate Studies. Advising First advisers and success coaches provide holistic and in-depth support to undergraduate students. This theory-based approach uses a developmental model that ensures that the adviser-student and coach-student relationship is integral.

“This Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities award recognizes the efforts of the Advising First coaches and advisers who work diligently to address the needs of undergraduates as they make critical academic and life decisions,” said Kathleen Shea Smith, director of Advising First.

“The name of the award, High Tech, High Touch, represents our commitment to balancing innovation with the timeless need for students to connect with trusted professionals who are invested in their success,” she said.

Florida State was selected based on the following qualifications: positive feedback from students and faculty, program innovation, institutional financial commitment, best practices and the use of outcome data.

An additional key retention strategy included forming an Enrollment Management Committee with broad representation from multiple campus partners. This committee designed a comprehensive approach to increase retention that includes tutoring, Freshman Interest Groups and a course designed for probationary students.

“I am delighted that FSU has received this recognition for the innovative and proactive work we do with our undergraduate students,” said Dean of Undergraduate Studies Karen Laughlin. “Advising First in particular is an exemplary program that has played a central role in the university’s overall degree completion efforts.”

The Division of Undergraduate Studies has partnered with several academic units placing Advising First advisers throughout campus in various departmental sites. Three Advising First Centers have also been established to meet the unique needs of students. These include the Advising First Center for Exploratory Students, which provides specialized support to undecided freshmen; the Advising First Center for Success Coaching, which delivers biweekly college life coaching sessions to students most vulnerable to attrition; and the Advising First Center for Academic Planning, which was created to work with upper division students who face unique academic challenges.

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities’ High Tech, High Touch competition is part of the Project Degree Completion initiative, a national movement consisting of pledges by nearly 500 four-year public colleges and universities to collectively boost college completion rates. The goal is to increase the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by 3.8 million between 2013 and 2025 so that 60 percent of all adults in the United States will possess a college degree.

The APLU established the High Tech, High Touch program to recognize members and showcase effective campuswide strategies that improve success for all students, especially first-generation students. This High Tech, High Touch approach emphasizes the use of data and technology to provide real-time information about students balanced with proactive and personalized interventions.

The Association of Pubic and Land-grant Universities is a research, policy and advocacy organization representing 218 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and related organizations.

Learn more about Advising First in this video.