The average adviser at Hillsborough Community College is responsible for 1,500 students.
Thanks to a new law eliminating most remedial reading, writing and math courses at Florida community colleges, those advisers need to touch base with every new and returning student before the spring semester starts.
Advisers and other support staff guide students as they earn their college degree. They help student pick classes and organize their schedule. Others might point students toward scholarships, grants, loans and other financial aid.
But when lawmakers reduced the number of remedial classes — also known as developmental or prep courses — they increased the work for advisers, said Hillsborough Community College registrar Jennifer Williams.
“We did not require new students to meet with advisers before registering,” Williams said. Now new students must meet with an adviser before starting classes.
Remedial education has been a major issue at community colleges across the country.
Many students aren’t ready for college-level work when they arrive at campus. About half of Florida students who took the college placement exam failed at least one subject. That includes both recent high school graduates and returning students.
The classes add to the time it takes to earn a degree. College officials said the classes often turned off students because they included material students already knew.
Research shows students who take remedial courses are less likely to finish their studies on schedule.
Advisers are letting students know about the change and determining if they’re eligible to skip remedial classes. Though students can choose to skip the placement test or remedial classes, HCC’s Williams said advisers are helping students decide whether that’s a good idea.
“We’re the front lines,” she said. “We could do nothing and let students choose whatever they want. But we, as an institution, we felt we had a moral and ethical obligation to advise students on what would be best for them.”
Hillsborough Community College officials said they are working on plans to hire more advisers. State funding has been flat, they said, and they are concerned about raising tuition.
The law comes with one advantage: typically fewer students take classes during the spring semester. That gives colleges a chance to adjust to the new law before a full class of students starts next fall.