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Sam Houston State University
Project Title:SAM Center—Intrusive Academic Advising and Mentoring Programs to Increase Graduation and Retention RatesInstitution Name:Sam Houston State University Innovation Category:Student Success Project Director:Bill Fleming, Executive Director of Student Advising and Mentoring Center (SAM Center)Contact Information:(936) 294-4450, fleming@shsu.eduWebsite:http://www.shsu.edu/samcenter
Project Description:The SAM Center employs proactive and reactive intrusive strategies to help retain and graduate students, many of whom are first-generation students. Advising is specifically designed for special populations (i.e. freshman students, probationary students, students returning to school, and students nearing graduation). Mentoring programs seek to provide assistance to students at identified academic decision points. The Center employs full-time advisers and reassigned and/or retired faculty. The SAM Center replaced an ineffective decentralized faculty advising model and is financed by an advising center fee levied on all students.

The SAM Center seeks to identify obstacles and create programs that facilitate student success by improving student performance (G.P.A.) and increasing retention and graduation rates. 

  • Based onfaculty referrals, the First Alert Program provides intrusive mentoring to students at risk.
  •  MAP program (Monitored Academic Progress) and HELP program (Help Eliminate Probation) provide assistance to students returning from suspension
    or students recently placed on probation. 
  • At-risk students as well as incoming freshmen and transfer students are required to be advised until they have demonstrated a pattern of success.
  • Students within one year of graduation are also required to be advised so that they can efficiently proceed toward graduation.  

Outcomes:Since the SAM Center opened in 2002, the six-year, five-year, and four-year graduation rates have increased 15%, 44%, and 114% respectively. Retention rates have improved from 63% to 73%. During this same period, the success rates for minority students have been similar to those of Anglo students. Results from the First Alert program indicate that nearly 73% of the referred students did not fail their class. MAP results indicate that over 60% of referred students improved their academic status as measured by reduction of grade point deficiencies. In terms of senior advisement, the number of degrees awarded has increased over 53%.
Challenges/Problems Encountered:The initial challenge in creating the SAM Center was passing a student referendum to establish an advising center fee. The centralized advising concept was presented to the Student Government Association (as representatives of the students). After addressing their questions they approved a new fee to support the center. Since the center was to focus on undergraduate students, graduate student fees were returned to the respective colleges for their graduate advising and recruiting programs. Establishing an advising center fee as opposed to an advising fee allowed for more flexibility in establishing new programs.
Evaluation Approach:Four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates, as well as retention rates, were compared and contrasted over a ten-year period to determine the impact of the various programs on these data.  Consistent positive results of annual evaluations reinforce the effectiveness of these programs.  Student surveys seeking to identify what has been learned about degree plans, transcripts, course requirements, and other advising materials support the value of advising sessions.
Potential for Replication:This advising and mentoring model could be replicated by any institution of a similar size or smaller (SHSU student population is 17,000+). Larger universities would have to adjust the model to suit populations in specific areas, but the specific programs could be easily copied with experienced personnel.  Establishing an advising center fee would allow greater flexibility for institutions tosuccessfully undertake such an endeavor.
Additional Resources:

The Texas Tribune, “Sam Houston State Sees Payoff With Advising Center” www.texastribune.org/texas-education/higher-education/push-better-advising-draws-attention-shsu

NACADA Clearing House: Academic Advising Resources: “Moving Toward Funding an Advising Center Using Student Advising Fees” www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/advisingissues/Sam_Houston.htm 

U. S. News and World Report, “Road Trip: Sam Houston State University” www.usnews.com/education/articles/2009/08/19/road-trip-sam-houston-state-university; “A Crash Course in College Preparedness” www.usnews.com/education/articles/2010/08/16/a-crash-course-in-college-preparedness 

CEO-to-CEO Contact:Dana Gibson , Presidentdgibson@shsu.edu
(936) 294-1013
Date Published: Monday, March 26, 2012