Better Advising Beats Free Tuition for Improving Degree Completion, Say Experts

In getting more students to complete their degrees, the use of highly structured curricula and proactive advising systems holds more promise than performance pay, free tuition for the first two years of college, or expanding credit for off-campus coursework, according to a survey of higher-education experts.

And for improving the quality of teaching, they see more promise in instructional software that adapts to students’ varying paces of learning than in options like technology-focused training for faculty members, better assessments of student learning, competency-based education, or game-based teaching.

The Higher Ed Insights survey, which included responses from 96 leaders at colleges, research institutes, and foundations, was conducted by Ithaka S+R, a nonprofit research-and-consulting organization.

Asked how they would rate the current state of undergraduate education on a seven-point scale, nearly a quarter of the respondents gave it a rating below neutral; 16 percent chose one of the top two ratings.

To improve affordability, the experts ranked the idea of “unbundling” college credits highest, despite the seeming conflict with their support for guided and structured curricula.

Asked to list as many as three obstacles to successful innovation or to higher education in general, respondents came up with 267 in all; those tied to “institutional culture and structures” were mentioned far more than any others.

Ithaka S+R said it now planned semiannual surveys of its 110-member expert panel on issues of interest to colleges.

Return to Top