Recently, Georgia State University (GSU) has increased its graduation rate by 22 percent thanks to recent changes in the way it is handling its academic advising program. One of these changes includes using a new type of software created by the Education Advisory Board (EAB). The software aids students and academic advisers by sending alerts to both parties when academic issues start to arise. For example, if a student did not sign up for a required class for his or her major or a student is in jeopardy of losing a financial aid package, the software will send a warning message to the student’s adviser and the student.

This new software has proven to be a great improvement to GSU’s academic advising program. As a result, the EAB is now in the process of creating similar software for two-year community colleges to use in their programs. In addition to sending warnings to students and advisers, this new software will provide the opportunity for students to complete a series of questions that the program will use to produce suggested majors for students. These suggestions will be accompanied by salary statistics from recent community college graduates who have completed the suggested majors. The software will offer other features for students such as schedule planning and directions around campus.

While this new technology will definitely benefit students, there are some downfalls to the software. Not all students have access to a computer at home, and therefore would have to travel to their college, a location offering computers for public use, or another source every time they wished to use the academic advising system. In addition, while the software is a great tool for students, most students express the need for additional in-person meetings with their advisers. No matter how easy or clear the software is to use, students will still likely want to interact and discuss their options with their advisers in person. Advisers will thus still need to schedule meetings with their students and will not be able to rely solely on the software.

There are community colleges that have already been successful in using this type of software to improve graduation rates. For instance, Sinclair Community College in Ohio is using academic advising software to its advantage. However, colleges and universities should also consider other advising options for students. According to Jane N. Ryland, president emerita of CAUSE, a grant program to benefit information technology professionals, community colleges should remain flexible when it comes to new technology because “today’s seemingly ‘hottest’ solution will pale before tomorrow’s innovation. . . . .” Therefore, new software should be used in addition to formal meetings with advisers, career fairs and counseling services to provide students with the maximum possible amount of support.

Did You Know?

Community colleges have been around for just over one hundred years. The first public community college was Joliet Junior College in Illinois, which opened in 1901. Others followed its example, and these early community colleges usually enrolled a few hundred students. The two-year colleges were of particular interest to those who wished to become grammar school teachers. Some states did not yet require postsecondary degrees for teachers of students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and community colleges were a way to receive training without obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

Community colleges provided job training for the unemployed during the Great Depression in the 1930s, and, by the 1960s, hundreds of community colleges had been founded throughout America to meet the educational needs of baby boomers. Today there are over one thousand community colleges across the nation and at least one hundred million students have attended a community college.