Athletes have an advising advantage

Student-athletes have higher six-year graduation rates.

Athletes have an advising advantage

Kia Farhang

University of Minnesota student-athletes have an advantage over other students when it comes to advising.

While most students have a single college adviser, athletic teams are assigned an extra adviser through the McNamara Academic Center for Student-Athletes.

These athletic advisers work in tandem with athletes’ college advisers to coordinate scheduling and keep track of student progress.

“We’re paying closer attention,” said Lynn Holleran, the MAC’s director.

The average undergraduate college adviser handles more than twice as many students as a MAC adviser, according to University data that excludes the College of Continuing Education.

The NCAA doesn’t allow member schools to provide resources to athletes that aren’t available to non-athlete students, Holleran said.

Services the MAC provides — tutoring, advising and computer labs — are available to all students elsewhere on campus. In some colleges, non-athlete students may also work with an additional adviser once they enter a major.

But when some college advisers work with more than 200 students at a time, having an extra adviser can act as a safety net for student-athletes.

“I think we’re monitored more than, I would say, the average student,” said Kayla Thom, a journalism senior on the rowing team.

MAC advisers typically have a lower student-to-adviser ratio than college advisers, said Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education. He added the MAC is “especially successful” in its efforts to support athletes.

The percentage of athletes who entered the University in 2005 and graduated in six years was 83 percent — about 13 percent higher than total student graduation, according to NCAA and University data.

Some students don’t think it’s fair to give athletes an extra adviser.

“Everybody needs help, not just athletes,” said Jenna Sickels, a freshman in the College of Liberal Arts. “We pay for [college], and we get bad advisers.”

Advisers are unnecessary because students can figure out their schedules and plan their courses with the Academic Progress Audit System and Graduation Planner, said Carla Wilson, a cultural studies and comparative literature senior.

Frequent Contact

Most athletic advisers try to check in with their students once a week, said Jacki Lienesch, director of academic advising for football at the MAC.

“We’re a little bit more involved,” Lienesch said.

Some colleges require students to meet with their advisers but not as frequently as athletes connect with their MAC advisers.

The College of Science and Engineering doesn’t allow students to register for classes until they speak with an adviser, said Amy Gunter, CSE director for academic advising.

But CSE students say these meetings are brief.

“We just have a quick, 10-minute check-in to get a hold off our record,” said Scott Fredrickson, a biomedical engineering junior.

Hanna Naegeli, also a biomedical engineering junior, said she always has an easy time getting in touch with her adviser, but she has to reach out in order to get advice.

“I feel like I don’t get enough reinforcement that I’m doing the right thing,” Naegeli said.

‘Team advising’

Not every college uses a single adviser to work with students.

For example, students in CSE are matched with a faculty or staff adviser once they enter a major, Gunter said. These advisers counsel students on more specific issues related to their field.

Students also have an “advising team” in the College of Liberal Arts, said Chris Kearns, assistant dean for student services.

They may be referred to resources outside CLA if they’re struggling to pick a major.

Honors students may also receive an extra adviser, depending on their school.

In the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, honors students work with both their honors and college adviser, said Bill Ganzlin, director of student services.

But in CSE, honors advisers take the place of college advisers, Gunter said.

Administrators across colleges also said student-to-adviser ratios don’t tell the whole story.

Kearns said very few experts feel “intrusive advising” — constantly checking in with students — is appropriate for all students all the time. He said some can perform well without outside pressure.

“You don’t want to use a limited resource where it won’t make a difference.”