Advisors - Distance Learning and the Role of Academic, Financial, and HS Program Advisors

Academic advisors are particularly important to those students who are enrolled in AA, AS or BS degree programs in Early Childhood Education (ECE). Prospective students and staff development managers will become aware of how advisors can help students sucessfully navigate institutions of higher education. The distinct roles of financial aid advisors, academic advisors, and advisors within a Head Start agency are explained.

by Chip Donohue, Ann Johnson, Pam Lucas, Chuck Lynd, Jhumur Mukerjee and Suzanne Thouvenelle

Faculty advisors are especially important to Early Childhood Education (ECE) students who are enrolled in part-time degree programs (for the AS, AA or BS degree). Understanding the support available from the faculty advisor can be even more relevant for the distance learning student. Advisors can be particularly helpful as learners navigate the many course offerings available in the distance education environment.

Advisors can encourage students to focus on enrolling in courses that contribute credit toward the particular degree program in which the student is enrolled. Further, advisors can assist students in ensuring that their current degree articulates with an AA, AS or BS degree, so in the event they want to continue their education, they will have met the requirements that support degree-related academic credit.

Within the many courses available online, the potential exists for students to access episodic learning experiences that are not connected to degree-related credits or programs. Learners might also encounter online learning opportunities that are not recognized by higher education institutions. In order to avoid nontransferable or dead-end learning, it is recommended that online learners secure the services of advisors.

Further, advisors can often help negotiate some of the challenges of securing financial aid to assist in paying tuition and related expenses for the ECE student.

Of particular interest for members of the Head Start community, there are several types of advisors who are important. These individuals serve distinct functions:

Institutional Advisors

Higher education institutions typically have academic advisors to guide students in course selection resulting in a degree. Academic advisors represent the higher education institution requirements in relation to the transferability of coursework and articulation of coursework into degree programs. If at all possible, it is ideal to find an advisor willing to consider flexible options for degree attainment and understands that multiple routes for professional development in the early childhood field.

Internal Advisors

Head Start programs typically have staff responsible for professional development activities. These staff members can support learning in selecting appropriate degree programs and can serve as brokers among institutions when articulation issues arise. These Head Start staff could be Education Managers, Human Resources Directors, Staff Development Coordinators, etc. Their function is to help prospective on-line learners to make informed decisions about choosing programs focused on degree attainment. In addition, many Head Start programs have direct access to technology support. Technology support personnel can also serve in an advisor role to assure that there is a match between on-line learning technology requirements and the compatibility of technology available to the on-line learners.

Financial Aid Advisors/Counselor

Most students are likely to need a combination of funding sources to pay for their education or training and the Financial Aid Advisor is a good starting point. A Financial Aid Advisor works for a college or university and helps students and families through the financial aid application process. The Financial Aid Advisor informs students of the many assistance programs available through the public and private sectors. Students and families applying for assistance are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). From the FAFSA, the Financial Aid Advisor can determine the aid program for which the student qualifies. Keeping in contact with a financial aid advisor is a good idea because new programs become available each year, and the eligibility requirements, award amounts, and contact information of existing programs are subject to change.

Chip Donohue, PhD, was the Director of Early Childhood Professional Development Programs at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Ann Johnson was a Head Start and Youth Program Specialist in the Region VII ACF Regional Office.

Pam Lucas was the Project Manager for Region VII Head Start Customer Service at the Region VII ACF Regional Office.

Chuck Lynd was the Associate Director, Information Services for the Early Childhood Quality Network (Q-Net) at the Ohio State University Center for Special Needs Populations.

Jhumur Mukerjee was the Early Literacy Content Specialist in the Region VII Head Start TA Network.

Suzanne Thouvenelle was the Early Learning and Literacy Subject Matter Expert for the Head Start Information & Publication Center.

Advisors - Distance Learning and the Role of Academic, Financial, and HS Program Advisors. Donohue, Chip, Johnson, Ann, Lucas, Pam, Lynd, Chuck, Mukerjee, Jhumur, and Thouvenelle, Suzanne. HHS/ACF/OHS. 2006. English.

Last Reviewed: May 2012

Last Updated: March 23, 2016