Data shows that students will find many benefits to having a good advisory program. Specifically, it presents the finding that effective advising can have a larger impact on college persistence and graduation rates (Center for Community College Student Engagement, 2018). Academic advising features are sometimes integrated with admissions and enrollment management software or other student support services to provide students with a well-rounded support experience, to enable them to concentrate on degree completion better and allow for optimum results. The best way to build this is by having a data-based outlook on how to address needs based on assessment. This can only be done with the help of digital solutions for educators, including academic advising software.
In this article, we list down the best academic advising tools and higher education retention software solutions for you and proceed to discuss what they offer and the problems they address. The end goal is to give you a clearer expectation of the features, benefits, and pricing of adopting such solutions.
It was found that 47% of college presidents are concerned about the sufficient delivery of advisory services, tutoring, and general student support (Ellucian, 2022). The majority, at 91%, are concerned about the mental health of students. College leadership is right to be concerned with this, as graduation rates among full-time undergraduate students in their initial institutions leave much to be desired. In 2020, for example, only 64% of students completed their undergraduate degrees in six years at the same institution where they began (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022a).
There are, of course, several reasons why completion rates are low. All of them, however, fall into the bailiwick of academic advising and student support services. Be the issues mental health, financial aid, career readiness, or a mix of many, institutional counseling and support are expected to take point in improving this key metric.
Given that there are many sides to student support, institutions and student success professionals may feel that they are spread quite thin. This is largely due to the poor visibility and disintegration of support processes that prevent proper tracking and monitoring of support activities. There are many cases where support and advisory services simply do not work in cohesion. They are carried out separately in siloes with little to no collaboration between teachers and counselors.
When structured this way, a true integrated student support and advisory program cannot develop. Institutions cannot plan in a sound empirical data-driven manner how they can improve support services when the program is not, in any substantial form, recorded. This is why many leaders in education recommend adopting tested student success practices together with student support technologies that provide a real-time 360-degree view. For this, data show that benefits abound when this is implemented well.
Merits abound for academic advising and planning, among them the many benefits they give students. In fact, the majority of both returning students (68%) and faculty (90%), find them very important (Center for Community College Student Engagement, 2018). However, there is a discrepancy there. Faculty members seem to find advisory services more important than students.
Furthermore, a good share of students has other main sources of academic advising, especially entering students. This can be quite unfortunate as this may cause confusion, leading to poor retention rates and non-completion risk. The potential risk is more pronounced in entering students.
It was found that only 47% of entering students reported that college staff or instructors as their main source of academic advice while 41% reported that they mainly get their academic advice from friends, family, and other students. Also, compared to the share of returning students (78%) who have reported to have met an advisor, only 62% of entering students did.
Given this, we can surmise that a good deal of work is needed to get students to take full advantage of institutional advisory services. Two important metrics lend credence to this view.
Two key metrics for student success in postsecondary education are retention and completion. According to these indicators, there is still much left to be desired when it comes to student success in the United States. In 2020, only about 64% of all undergraduates earn their bachelor’s degree within six years with the same institution they started with (NCES, 2022a). Furthermore, while the retention rate among four-year degree-granting institutions is relatively high, at 82% in SY 2019 to 2020 (NCES, 2022b), among two-year degree-granting institutions, the retention rate is only 61%. Both, however, can still be improved.
The figures, of course, vary among institutions of different types. The completion rate within public four-year institutions is 63% with females having a higher completion rate of 66% than the 60% recorded for males. In private for-profit institutions, the retention rate is only 29% with males having 31% and females with 28%. So, the exact reasons for these poor numbers differ. Thus, in order to address them, making the right assessment is paramount. And, a data-driven approach tailored to a student’s need is required.
In one study, it was found that international and domestic students differ in how much importance they place on institution- and performance-centric variables (Haverila, Haverila, and McLaughlin, 2020). So, employing the same student support system for both groups may backfire.
It was found that poor quality of instruction was perceived to be significantly more crucial by domestic students (Haverila et al., 2020). On the other hand, it was found that international students perceive “social integration, ineffective study skills, difficulty adjusting to college life, poor extracurricular activities, and poor housing arrangements” as to be more highly significant to retention intentions. And, even though foreign-born students only account for 4.6% of the total student population in the United States, their total number reaches a total of 914,095 (Open Doors, 2022). The problem of minorities may not be that minor at all.
Getting to know nuances between groups can help student success leaders address the right things for the right person. And, to properly identify these, a sound empirical method is required. This is something that digital tools can offer. We will get to this later.
Of course, as Haverial and associates (2020) found, there are also variables where both international and domestic students were seen to have equal importance such as personal issues (e.g., medical and family difficulties). So, student success professionals could always build patented interventions for more common issues affecting student retention. Below are the four most common and general factors.
Student retention, put simply, is “something the institution does in order to move the student closer to graduation Ericksen (2022).” And, there are four factors or issues that institutions need to address to help students along. These are:
Addressing these, as implied, should be done in an integrated manner. Collaboration among advisory staff, faculty and other student support services is necessary to provide a holistic and cohesive student success program. With this approach, institutions can ensure that there is consistency in advisory programs.
In practice, as you may know, it can be messy. In 2021, a study found that 77% of participating institutions use a split model of advising using both faculty and professional advisors (Kapinos, 2021). Only 23% use a total intake model being advised first by professional advisors and then assigned to faculty advisors. In community colleges, it was also found that responsibilities were split.
Source: Kapinos, 2021
Almost 40% of advising responsibilities are split between faculty members and staff (Carlstrom & Miller, 2013 in Kapinos, 2021). And, 22% of advising reporting lines are also split by student affairs and academic affairs. Thus, challenges are sure to happen (Kapinos, 2021). One way, however, to bring all of these efforts together is to keep a shared singular record of all student support efforts. This is where academic advising software solutions come in.
Used in conjunction with or leveraging the features of online appointment scheduling software, higher ed retention software solutions allow institutions to keep track of their advisory services and sessions. These platforms act in, more or less, the same way some of the best CRM software systems do for non-academic business organizations. They maintain student records, allow for updates and notetaking, and enable collaborative planning. A lot of student advising software solutions are standalone programs that work together with other systems and leverage school records to assess needs, plan interventions, and execute student success programs.
Some of these software solutions come as modules in student information systems or education management software suites. Given the level of SaaS technology nowadays and the stringent market requirement for the right mix of ease-of-use and high functionality, academic planning software modules today do not feel like extra appendages to the whole suite. They are seamlessly integrated into the whole platform. As they leverage the records, features, and capabilities of the whole suite, they are quickly able to help student success leaders plan and execute support programs in a data-driven fashion.
Moreover, these platforms connect users to other student success leaders in their vast community for professional advice and technical support. Hence, they are not just basic tools but are also a portal to models of best student success practices today.
These programs are known to positively affect key student success performance areas like retention and completion. Academic software solutions have been known to help institutions improve retention rates by 2% to 12% and graduation rates by 3% to 15% (EAB, 2022). Hence, many are getting convinced to adopt.
However, administrations may feel that there will be new costs with a new college counseling software in tow. Also, as adopting new technology may also entail recruiting new talent, hiring new staff can be an indirect cost of adoption as well. It is good to note, however, that there can be financial benefits on top of productivity benefits.
One audit found that using academic advising solutions increased the productivity of administrative and academic teams by 12% which, in three years, reached more than a composite of $6.7 million (Forrester, 2020). And, improved recruitment, admissions, and enrollment contributions summed up to $2.1 million in the same span as well. Hence, when used right, digital software tools, together with the accompanying online advising best practices can ultimately benefit institutions economically.
It is good to note, however, that not all college retention software are created equal. Some are just better than others, especially in terms of important core features. And, if you are shopping for a good platform, it can be pretty hard as there are many capable software solutions out there. So, to help you expedite the process, we present to you (in alphabetical order) the 20 best academic advising software solutions available today.
AdvisorTrac by Redrock Software Corporation is a comprehensive academic advising system for colleges and universities. It provides institutions with end-to-end tools to manage and track services, especially advising and counseling. The software supports complex multi-location operations and offers custom permission options for enhanced security. In this way, administrators can assign advisors to students, schedule appointments, record every student contact, and automate custom reports.
The program also links with other platforms such as student information systems to maintain up-to-date records, from contact details to student demographics. All of this is through its easy-to-use cloud-based platform.
Naviance by PowerSchool is a unique academic advising software solution that leverages research related to student success. These include the latest understanding and findings in areas of college choice, career readiness, social and emotional learning, and academic readiness. Hence, it is used by institutions to prepare students for postsecondary education and success.
Naviance offers students tools for college research and application, career exploration and planning, and reporting. Lastly, the platform integrates with other PowerSchool products to extend its capabilities and provide a more well-rounded offering to students. It works seamlessly with PowerSchool Unified Classroom Schoology Learning and PowerSchool SIS.
Skyward Student Management Suite combines features found in classroom management, office management, student services, and family engagement systems to offer an integrated SIS experience for all users. It covers all advisory bases, from appointment scheduling to college and career readiness efforts. And, it does this by involving all stakeholders.
Additional tools in the suite include mobile applications for online course requests and family access. Also, unlike other academic advising software programs, it includes a classroom management module with features for teachers to track behavior, attendance, and grades. Other software providers make these capabilities available via products separate from academic advising per se. Hence, by including this and other modules Skyward Student Management Suite is one of the most comprehensive student management software around.
Achieve Student Success Hub is a CRM software for student success and retention. It sports six core modules, namely, appointment management, kiosk and cue management, case management, campaign and survey management, reporting and analytics, and early alert and retention management. These provide institutions of higher education with end-to-end tools to recruit, retain, and have students graduate on time.
The product is also known for its ease of use. Moreover, the software provider also offers strategic consultation, implementation, project implementation, and IT support. Lastly, it also integrates well with other systems such as learning management systems (LMS) like Canvas LMS, among others.
Anthology Beacon is an academic advising software solution that allows institutions to employ a collaborative team approach to provide individual student support. The platform provides users with the tools to approach student support services in a systematic way. These include automatic insights and recommendations, customizable dashboards, a comprehensive profile builder, and powerful data analytics, among others.
With these, institutions can take advantage of their campus-wide data to gain valuable insights and form effective intervention programs for a wide variety of support needs. Also, given that the system access these data in real-time, institutions will also be able to provide support whenever a student needs it. The program, of course, works seamlessly with other Anthology products.
Navigate is a student success management system designed for higher education. In fact, it is one of the most popularly-used products available today. This is because it is the first to provide an enterprise-level student success platform that unites students, administrators, advisors, staff, and faculty in a collaborative network for improving student support efforts. It is being used by more than 850 schools and has helped institutions increase their graduation rates from 3% to 15%.
This is not only due to the powerful comprehensive features that Navigate provides. The company also connects institutions with dedicated Strategic Leaders who get to know organizations deeply to help them steer their student support efforts in a better direction.
Jenzabar SONIS is designed specifically for the needs of smaller or specialized schools. These include career and technical schools, international schools, and smaller colleges or universities. The program provides end-to-end solutions such as managing all administrative tasks while providing integrated services, from admissions and registration to course management and billing. With these, both students and teachers can perform all school-related transactions via the web on any device.
The product is also fitted with automatic reports for actionable insights. It also provides advanced query tools. These enable users to make data-based decisions. The platform also works well with other solutions and partner services. These include DocuSign, CollegeBoard, and Authorize.Net.
ConexED is a student services management platform that helps institutions ensure the success of students from enrollment to graduation, regardless of location or ability. It provides students with access to “ConexED cards” that serve as virtual doors for teachers, advisors, and staff. These allow students to interact with whom they need to at the right time. Possible actions include instant chat, “knocking,” event registration, and appointment scheduling.
The platform also includes a modern case management module, complete with early alerts and progress tracking. It has cohort-centric management capabilities as well. Together with workflow automation tools, ConexED also provides smart dynamic scheduling capabilities that avoid any conflicts and prevent no-shows. The platform works best with other ConexEd products. And, lastly, it is a certified SBA Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB).
Ellucian Colleague is an ERP platform that allows users to streamline their processes and keep information unified under one roof. The platform also allows users to customize their own workflows to increase agility and efficiency. Moreover, it provides rich self-service capabilities and multiple delivery options. It is known for its easy-to-use collaboration tools that connect processes, information, and people across an institution.
The Colleague platform has five other modules. These help users automate financial processes and tasks, manage student lifecycle, manage financial aid processes, and manage human resources. The product also works well with other platforms and solutions, including ADVIZOR Solutions, Oracle, and PayPal.
Watermark Student Success and Engagement, formerly Aviso, is a student success and engagement platform focused on providing users with a data-driven framework to make the biggest impact possible. The platform, an AI equity and student success solution, is designed to improve student outcomes using predictive modeling. Through predictive modeling, the platform identifies underserved students and provides institutions with action policies to engage them and increase retention.
It also provides other end-to-end solutions such as attendance tracking, collaboration, early alerts, guided pathways, and advanced intuitive reporting. Moreover, it seamlessly integrates with other third-party solutions, including Ellucian, Jenzabar, Blackboard, and Tableau, among many others.
Salesforce Education Cloud is a comprehensive management platform for higher education. It is basically the education version of the Salesforce platform. The platform is CRM-based and it allows users to unify their data to form a single source of truth across an institution. This, then, allows organizations to provide a consistently personalized journey to students—from admission and counseling to graduation and alumni relationships.
On top of being highly customizable, the product also integrates well with more than 4,000 apps from the Salesforce AppExchange. This allows users to tailor-fit their deployment according to their evolving needs. AppExchange Partners include platforms such as DocuSign, Asana, and Map Plotter, among others.
Ellucian CRM Advise is Ellucian’s specialized academic advising CRM solution. It is designed to help students to focus primarily on their degree completion while generating support from their institution. This is, firstly, by assembling all departments and communications into a single accessible view for students. For support staff, the product provides them with tools to identify at-risk students and intervene using various approaches.
The product, of course, works best with other Ellucian solutions. It also seamlessly integrates with other third-party applications, including Amazon Web Services, Blackboard, and IBM, among many others.
Workday Student is a student system designed to help institutions to put students first. The platform unifies institution data and processes to help serve stakeholders better, including students and teachers. Workday Student also makes it easy for students to better understand their academic eligibility and progress to help them plan courses and be engaged throughout their academic journey. Self-service tools are also available to teachers, advisors, and counselors.
The platform is also designed for interoperability. This means that it can integrate seamlessly with other third-party solutions to extend its capabilities, thanks to its industry-standard API framework. The platform is known to allow a team of five users to manage more than 150 integrations. Of course, the platform works with other Workday products, including Workday Financial Management and Workday Grants Management.
Xello prides itself on its academically-researched and scientifically-validated K-12 program that puts students at the center of their own planning experience. The platform allows students to take the helm and document their own journey as they explore post-secondary options and build self-knowledge. It also allows for continuous assessment as students can update their profiles as they take in new experiences, build new skills, and accumulate new knowledge.
These features allow advisors and counselors to engage their students in the right context and level. Moreover, it provides them with the right tools to approach this in a data-driven fashion. Lastly, the platform also integrates with other software solutions, including PowerSchool, Intellisark Pro, and Method Test Prep, among others.
GradSnapp is a student management software solution that empowers the student management cycle, from engagement and data collection to data analysis and advising. Like many top solutions, it values a data-driven approach to student support. Moreover, it also provides useful resources about student management cycle practices that users can try out for themselves. These include tips on how to use text campaigns and social media to increase student engagement.
These are all taken from real-life experiences within the GradSnapp community. This is because, in its essence, GradSnapp is a technology-based community platform that also allows advisors to learn from each other. In this way, both technology and technology practices can evolve together.
uConnect is a virtual career center platform for both students and alumni. uConnect enhances career services management by putting all highly-regarded tools on one platform. Hence, it provides institutions with a way to centralize all career services virtually. The product also comes with tools for personalized engagement and performance measurement to cater to individual needs.
The product integrates seamlessly with other platforms, including Symplicity, Gradleaders, Handshake, WayUp, and Anthology, among many others. Moreover, the platform provides users with a robust analytics module to help them monitor performance and measure ROI.
Starfish by EAB provides institutions with a way to connect students to their larger campus community. In this way, they will not only be informed of the available services but also feel connected and engaged with what the community affords them. The platform does this by analyzing student data to generate actionable insights and recommendations for proactive interventions while examining institutional capacity for support. This makes targeted engagement and interventions possible.
Moreover, the platform is also active in bringing equity within institutions. It supports Moon Shot for Equity, which is focused on eliminating equity gaps by the year 2030 and provides curated content via its Equity Resource Center. So, if you are keen on addressing student rights issues, then Starfish could be a good bet for you. Also, because Starfish boasts of a wide network of members, users get to connect with fellow success leaders around the country for community support and knowledge exchange.
Panorama Education is an easy-to-use student success platform used primarily by public schools across districts in 50 states. The solution is known for its highly-visual interface and robust district-wide reporting tools. Panorama Student Success builds on student and school data to provide teachers and advisors with insights on how to guide advisory and student support efforts. Tools included for this data-driven approach include behavioral analytics and a quick district-wide interventions summary.
Also, thanks to its district-wide reports, districts can also use the platform to form strategic student support goals across their jurisdictions. The software provider also actively supports both MTSS and RTI frameworks and helps organization users roll out their support structure using such frameworks.
Overgrad is specifically targeted at K-12 institutions that want to provide their students with high-quality postsecondary education options. It provides students with tools to explore options, including those for securing financial aid. Counselors, using the system, can track exploration activity and student eligibility quite easily. This is thanks to the program’s sleek and intuitive design.
The product is also widely praised for the level of customization it provides clients. This allows users to stay in compliance with both state and district requirements while allowing them to create their own workflows and KPIs.
OpenEduCat is an open-source education management solution for schools, colleges, and universities. It is prized for its easy deployment and the active support users get from its user community. The platform is essentially an ERP solution that helps users manage end-to-end processes in virtually all aspects of managing an educational institution. These include modules for managing exams, admissions, students, faculty, and finances.
The platform also has advanced modules available. These include those for payroll, sales, recruitment, email marketing, and even stock management. Moreover, OpenEduCat is also accessible via its native mobile applications. Hence, users can access their information on the go. Furthermore, OpenEduCat also allows on-premise deployments.
You can really do well with any of the top academic advising software solutions listed here. It is, however, good to note that there are different types with different target users and support scales. For instance, there are products here that are meant for K-12 schools. Others have versions for K-12 and postsecondary. There are also solutions that are made specifically for special schools. So, it is up to you to create a short list of the ones that fit your situation.
However, it is best to really look for a platform that integrates well with your current architecture, including critical systems like your school administration platform. In this way, you will enjoy high out-of-the-box usability and interoperability. Moreover, do remember that choosing a solution is also entering your organization into a partnership with the software provider. Hence, choose a company that you share values with and that has a reputation for providing great customer service and technical support. This is because user experience does not start and stop at software use. It also extends into other touchpoints with your software provider.
Lastly, you should also see whether your current software providers have academic advising software solutions or modules available. This is because if you adopt their platform, you are ensured that it will work seamlessly with your current digital software stack.