In my department (math, US, medium-sized public university), the current practice is that undergraduate students declare a major when they enter, and are assigned a faculty advisor. The advisor is always a full-time faculty member, and will normally continue to advise them until they graduate. The student meets with their advisor at least once per semester to discuss what courses they should take in the next term; the advisor is also available to help with degree planning, academic difficulties, bureaucratic problems, advice about careers and grad school, etc.
There is a proposal from our administration to change this by hiring a "professional advisor," a staff member whose full-time job would be to fill this role for each student's first 1-2 years. (After three semester, they would be assigned a faculty advisor as before.) The hope is that this will somehow help with "student success", i.e. retention and graduation rates, which are lower than we would like.
I am curious about the pros and cons of this approach. I assume this has been tried at other institutions, and it would be interesting to know what effects were observed (either anecdotally or backed by research).
Possible pros and cons that we have identified:
Saves faculty time
Students may be too "intimidated" to approach a faculty advisor with their problems. A professional advisor might be easier for students to work with.
A professional advisor could come in with special training or education on advising students, and common student issues. Faculty advisors usually just have to pick it up as they go along.
Students will not work with their faculty advisor for as long (about 2.5 years instead of 4). This will reduce the strength of their academic relationship.
Math faculty may be better qualified to help address academic difficulties in math classes, which are frequently encountered by first- and second-year students.
The professional advisor would not only advise math students, but also those in other areas of science. There are concerns that the advisor could unduly influence students to change their majors away from math, which is considered a "difficult" major, if they start to struggle academically. There are even concerns that implicit bias on the advisor's part could lead them to do this disproportionately on the basis of gender, minority status, etc.
Math faculty are involved in designing the requirements of the math major, and so are best qualified to advise students on how to satisfy those requirements. Also, since they actually teach math courses, they would be better able to help students decide which courses would best fit their interests.
I wonder how these work out in practice, and if there are other issues we haven't thought of.