UA Annual Graduate Survey released: findings show link between support staff and success

May 23, 2013

An annual survey of graduates released by the University of Alaska shows 88 percent of student respondents were satisfied with their education and experience at UA.

The report, conducted by the McDowell Group, measures how graduates rate their experiences in the UA system, what they do immediately after graduating, how well they think UA prepares them for the workforce and what factors contribute most to successful degree completion. Students who graduated between summer 2011 and spring 2012 semesters from UA Certificate to Ph.D. programs were invited to participate; 1,030 responded.

Among the responding participants:

  • Seventy-two percent of currently employed graduates reported using skills learned at UA at least weekly.
  • Distance education students, a growing sector, were more likely to report satisfaction with career preparation at UA (82 percent) than were non-distance students (69 percent).
  • Seven out of ten graduates who identified specific post-graduation career or workforce goals are currently working in their desired fields.
  • Seventy-three percent of graduates worked during their final year of school.
  • Fifty-five percent of responding students participated in at least one extracurricular activity; graduates most commonly participated in clubs and organizations related to their major field.

Significantly, 85 percent of responding graduates also recognized support from UA staff, including academic advisors, as somewhat or very important to degree success. Academic advising has been a priority in UA’s budget request to the legislature because of its demonstrated impact on student retention and success. UA’s results correlate with national data on the impact of academic advising.

All UA campus advising programs are focusing on the critical first and second years. “Across the country, many students enter college underprepared. It is important for advisors and other support staff to make meaningful connections with new students during the first few weeks of school. Early outreach efforts should be very intentional,” said University of Alaska Southeast Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Joe Nelson.

UAS works collaboratively across departments and with faculty to provide high-quality advising services to students. Using a developmental advising model, UAS has initiated mandatory advising to help more students progress to graduation. New initiatives for fall 2013 include using programs that integrate a number of student success efforts, including early alerts and outreach, as well as support to students on probation.

The University of Alaska Anchorage works to identify and assist middle and high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds and offers services to ensure they graduate high school college-ready and transition successfully to postsecondary education. UAA is focusing additional advising support on exploratory students with undecided majors, leading them through a series of surveys, conversations with academic advisors and career exploration to help select a major that is right for them early in their college career. UAA Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Bruce Schultz said that funds appropriated by the state legislature have been used to facilitate communication between faculty and advisors to better track and identify students early in the semester who are at risk for attrition and low academic progress.

“We are taking a systematic approach to issues that are the most critical. Working with at-risk first and second year students helps to create a culture of transformative change so that the institution as a whole can view the student experience differently than they ever have. Beginning in fall 2013, new students will experience a dramatic transformation of the first-year experience,” Schultz said.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has used state funding to expand advising services for students, provide scholarships to low income, first generation students, increase tutoring and academic support and fund additional classes for students needing supplemental instruction. The addition of two academic advisor positions will allow UAF Student Support Services to advise 120 additional students. The College of Liberal Arts was able to add a staff advisor position and two additional academic advisor positions have been funded in the Academic Advising Center.

UAF uses a comprehensive advising model in order to increase the success of all students, particularly at-risk baccalaureate students. “We believe that this sort of personal connection and attention to students, particularly when they are struggling, will lead to increased attainment,” said UAF Vice Provost Accreditation Liaison Officer and Dean of General Studies Alex Fitts.

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