MDRC in the News

New Brief Offers Lessons in Advising for Community Colleges

Campus Technology


As community college pathways gain steam as a structure for improving student outcomes, advising is turning out to be a vital element in the formula for success. Even in schools without a pathway mode, improving advising can make a difference. To help institutions that want to “redesign or enhance” their advising services, a new research brief by nonprofit social policy research firm MDRC has shared lessons honed over two decades. The report’s authors explained that by the term “advising,” they mean any kind of guidance given to a college student “about an academic, social or personal matter.”

The guidance covers five broad areas with several lessons in each section:

  • Designing a better advising model;
  • Structuring the advising team;
  • Training team members and providing them with tools;
  • Working for continual improvement on how students are supported; and
  • Planning for change and program growth…..

…..Where resources are available, the college might consider providing incentives–cash rewards, book vouchers, transportation credits–to students to meet with their advisers, especially early on, to help them “get over the hurdle” of that first adviser meeting.

Giving advisers access to tracking tools, data and the training to use it all has also proven useful, to help them identify the students with the highest levels of need, share progress with the advising team and “assess the effectiveness of different outreach strategies.”

“How to Design and Implement Advising Services in Community Colleges” is openly available on the MDRC website.

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