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University System Students Give High Marks to Educational Experience in National Surveys

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Atlanta — February 8, 2006

When it comes to meeting expectations and delivering a quality educational experience, University System of Georgia institutions rate highly with their key customers: USG students. The positive ratings are highlighted in two national, independent surveys of college students, which also recognized two USG institutions as national leaders in engaging students academically.

Key elements of the two surveys were shared with the Board of Regents today in a presentation by Dr. Daniel Papp, senior vice chancellor for academics and fiscal affairs and Dr. Cathie Mayes Hudson, associate vice chancellor for strategic research and analysis.

“These surveys provide us with data to assess how well our institutions perform in a number of areas that affect student learning,” said Hudson. She said the surveys provide a clear perspective on how students view an institution’s success in encouraging student-faculty contact, active learning, student cooperation and other areas that affect the academic experience.

The annual surveys query students at both two- and four-year institutions. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) focuses on four-year institutions, and the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) looks at two-year colleges. The latest surveys were conducted in 2005 – the first time the System has participated in the survey (although several USG four-year institutions have participated in prior surveys). Institutional findings were released last fall, and today’s presentation was the first report of University System of Georgia survey results.

Hudson noted the most promising findings of the NSSE survey were in the area of student satisfaction. Of those responding, 82 percent of USG freshmen and 80 percent of USG seniors indicated they would attend the same institution if they could start over again, and 86 percent of USG respondents agreed that they had “a good or excellent educational experience.”

“If we are going to improve student success, it’s important that we participate in these types of national surveys,” said Papp. “Such data help us focus our efforts by informing us of how we measure against our national peers, and where we should target improvements.”

In addition to being useful performance data for participating institutions, administrators of the CCSSE two-year college survey use the data to annually select eight institutions nationally as “top performers” in each of five benchmark areas. Two USG institutions were selected to receive such recognition: Gainesville State College received high rankings for student faculty interaction, and Georgia Perimeter College excelled in the area of student effort.

The NSSE four-year institution study asks a random sample of freshmen and seniors a series of questions. Officials use the responses to assess how well colleges and universities engage students, and how institutions compare with their peers in five benchmark areas. Each benchmark is based on a 1-100 scale, with 100 being the top possible score. Ideally, Hudson said, survey results should show seniors as more engaged than freshmen, which reflects the higher academic expectations of seniors.

In the five benchmark areas on the NSSE survey, the University System and its students received the following results:

  • In the area of academic challenge, USG freshmen and seniors both were found to be engaged at almost the same level as the nation’s students. The median score for USG freshmen was 51, compared to 53 for the nation. For USG seniors, the median score was 56, compared to 57 for the nation.
  • With regard to active and collaborative learning, both USG freshmen and seniors were engaged at levels below the national average. The score for USG freshmen was 38 compared to the national median of 43, while USG seniors scored 48 compared to the national benchmark score of 52.
  • In student/faculty interaction, another benchmark, USG freshmen scored at 28, compared to the national median of 33. The median score for USG seniors was 39, compared to the national score of 44.
  • In terms of their degree of engagement in enriching educational experiences, USG freshmen scored very near their national counterparts (25 for USG freshmen, compared to the national median of 27). USG seniors, whose median score was 36, rated below the national median for seniors of 42.
  • Finally, the highest level of engagement for students in the USG and nationally was in the category of supportive campus climate. The median score for USG freshmen was 58, compared to 61 in the nation; and USG seniors’ median was 56, two points less than the national score of 58.

The CCSSE two-year survey also looked at five benchmark areas: level of academic challenge, students’ experience with active and collaborative learning, student effort, the degree of student and faculty interaction, and the availability of support for learners. Some key findings:

  • Sixty-two percent of students surveyed responded that they asked questions in class “often” or “very often” and 52 percent indicated they discussed course ideas outside of class. Overall, USG students scored slightly higher than the national average on this benchmark area, which covered active and collaborative learning (a mean score of 52 for USG students, compared to 50 for the nation).
  • Fifty-four percent of USG students who responded said they prepared two or more drafts of a paper “often” or “very often,” and only 16 percent said they came to class without completing reading assignments. Again, the USG means score was above the national average on student effort: 53 in the USG, compared to a national means score of 50.

Hudson said the research indicates students are active participants in their college experience. “It’s important to use these results to focus on ways an institution can shape its academic and extracurricular offerings to encourage even stronger student engagement,” she said. Hudson said researchers have shown that higher levels of student and faculty interaction lead to higher graduation rates.

Exactly 529 colleges and universities nationwide participated in the 2005 NSSE survey, including 21 USG four-year institutions. The 2005 CCSSE survey was conducted among 257 colleges nationwide and 13 USG two-year colleges.

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