American River College recently enacted a policy encouraging new students to meet with a counselor after participating in an online orientation so the new student and the counselor can create a student education plan, or iESP.
This is a great step in the right direction, but students who are not new to the ARC campus are often unaware that such a program is in place. With delays and stress abounding in trying to meet with a counselor, they often find themselves out of the loop in their own education.
As media continues to push into the age of the Internet, a shift towards an online form submission system or chat-based session with a counselor would be a fantastic route for ARC to pursue in mitigating the hassles that currently exist in the system.
The counseling department currently has no plans on expanding counselor availability via online capabilities that could include quick-question chats with counselors, which is an overlooked option in an effort to improve the situation without busting the budget.
Students find it difficult to meet with a counselor on campus to iron out their educational goals with the current systems in place, which only gives students the option to book appointments sometimes months in advance or the option to drop-in and hope they can be seen within several hours – literally.
A student population totaled at 28,175 according to American River College records as of spring 2014, is not helping matters.
Counselors are limited in availability for appointments due to the very disproportionate student-to-counselor ratio, which is a problem that may only be solved via the financial means of the school itself to hire the extra staff and even expand the physical dimensions of the counseling office.
Online offers a compromise – more staff may be necessary, but the lack of needing to expand operational space will make a difference in cost and improve response times to students in need of counseling assistance.
Can you imagine how much of a hassle it would be to find out that you weren’t on track for graduation after being told you were by a previous counselor, and then being unable to set up a timely appointment to discover the problem before it became one?
The faceless voice on the other end of the phone when trying to schedule an appointment at ARC often tells students that there are no more appointments available and to try again in two weeks. In busier times of the semester, it becomes a game of rinse and repeat.
Students in such situations end up facing disheartening news that could have been avoided with a better, more accessible system in place.
A large portion of paperwork that students need to fill out on their road to a counselor appointment could be managed in an online system that would facilitate the process, giving counselors access to student information (at their request) and allowing them to help advise students via secure chat communication.
A paperless option is another route, allowing students to fill out and submit paperwork online with a simulated program that allows students to input needed classes for their major like some of the larger state colleges have when applying.
An early-form of online counseling currently exists in the Los Rios district via distance counseling appointments, but these are limiting in that a student must have access to a webcam in order to conduct the scheduled appointment with the counselor.
The stress of missing graduation deadlines or getting mixed up in the plethora of classes at ARC should not be something a student dreads over while attending college.
While it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to manage their education, the course catalog listings for graduation requirements can be daunting to any student not versed in the expertise of campus counselors, which is why they are so thankfully relied upon for their assistance.
Work schedules, complicated class arrangements, and obligations outside of school make it difficult for students to schedule appointments several weeks out or be able to drop-in without any idea of how long they will have to wait.
A push for more interactive counseling sessions via online can help solve the issue of overworked counselors and under-served students in one fell swoop, and is worth a conversation as ARC continues its commitment to higher learning in the 21st century.