Adviser pay drives turnover


A side view of Catt Hall at Iowa State University.

Raquel Zuniga, Academic Adviser

The Iowa State Daily ran a story April 24 on the struggles students face when they have frequent changes in advisers. Academic advisers play a key role in the retention of students, and high turnover will adversely impact their academics. 

Academic advisers serve as the connection between students and the program they are pursuing, the department they are in and the campus community at large. When there is a disruption in that relationship, it can be challenging for students to have their academic needs successfully met.

One thing that I feel was not adequately addressed was the role adviser pay plays in adviser turnover.  Specifically, I wanted to address the statement made in the article that “finances can also be a factor…At Iowa State a lot of people may complain that they don’t get paid as much as they could…I don’t see that as an issue. Your benefits and everything balance out.”

I am glad that pay is not an issue for some, but that should not give the false impression that adviser pay overall is not a problem. It is great that ISU benefits are phenomenal (retirement, health insurance, etc.), but that does not balance out the fact that advisers here are often paid up to $10,000 less than market value salary. And when prices for food, rent, mortgage, childcare, etc. (The Federal Reserve just raised interest rates to a 16-year high) continue to rise, which means that there are hard choices to be made in terms of leaving a job that you love for a job that will give financial sustainability.

The article also mentioned that generational differences can play a major role in adviser turnover. The example used was that millennials prefer to jump around for varied experiences and that pay is a key factor for them. 

While that may be true to an extent, I am not sure it is due to generational differences. When you are a young professional fresh out of college, that is what you do, and given the amount of financial investment students put toward earning their college degrees, the pay they will earn should be a large factor in their employment decision.  Student loans carry a hefty price tag. 

I certainly moved around jobs when I first graduated college, and I am not a millennial. I am a Gen X, and while I agree that to those in my generation, job longevity or loyalty was an attribute instilled as part of our professional persona, that does not mean that I will stay if the environment or pay does not align with the skills, expertise and experience I bring to the table. 

That, along with advisers being given more and more responsibility, is not part of our purview, and the expectation is that we will step in and take it on. Is it any wonder that people find opportunities elsewhere? 

Yes, I am here because I love what I do. I want to help my students successfully navigate the college experience, but in this case, getting paid near or at market value salary is not a matter of complaining that I do not get what I could. It is making sure that I have a salary that allows for more than getting by.