Centre College student satisfaction continues to exceed national averages
According to the recently released 2013 Survey Report, Centre College once again exceeds national averages at a “significantly higher” rate in nearly all categories that comprise the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).
Performance in numerous categories was particularly exceptional, and the data indicates that students see Centre as a college that is highly collaborative, engaged, respectful of diversity and focused on collaborative and experiential learning opportunities. The survey also demonstrates that Centre students are very hardworking.
The study habits of Centre students made national headlines last year, with the Washington Post naming Centre one of the top five institutions in the country for average study time by students. While the national average has decreased according to this year’s report, Centre’s already high average nonetheless saw a slight increase.
Now in its 13th year, NSSE is the annual alternative to the college rankings guides. It relies solely on input from an institution’s own students, who are surveyed in their first and senior years of college. The results are then weighed against three comparison groups. For Centre, this includes 567 public and private colleges and universities nationwide, 80 private liberal arts colleges nationwide and 94 private colleges in the Southeast.
Since its inception, 1,554 colleges and universities have relied on NSSE data, and Centre has participated in the survey every year. As such, the longitudinal breadth of data for Centre is significant. Centre has long used NSSE data to help with accountability, assessment and improvement, benchmarking and general institutional research.
“Centre is constantly interested in finding ways to be better, stronger and faster,” says President John A. Roush. “NSSE’s depth of analysis is a sure way for us to understand best how we can continue to offer an exceptional educational experience that will prepare young men and women to make a difference for good once they leave our campus.”
The survey is conducted by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research (IUCPR) and measures student involvement in activities and programs that promote learning and personal development. Already known for its rigor, IUCPR staff recently expanded NSSE in order to meet increasing demands for even better assessment data.
Just last year, the number of survey questions doubled, from 42 to 84. This year, 88 questions are grouped into 10 engagement indicators, which fit into four themes of engagement: “Academic Challenge,” “Learning with Peers,” “Experiences with Faculty,” and “Campus Environment.” A separate “High-Impact Practices” element has also been added.
Centre first-year student experiences were ranked “significantly higher” than their national counterparts in all four thematic areas and in all 10 engagement indicators, as well as nine out of 10 engagement indicators compared with Southeastern private college counterparts.
Senior student experiences fared equally well, coming in “significantly higher” than all counterparts in the “Learning with Peers,” “Experiences with Faculty” and “Campus Environment” areas. In “Academic Challenge,” seniors scored significantly higher compared to all other students nationwide in terms of “high-order learning” and “reflective and integrative learning.”
Seniors also ranked significantly higher than the national average in the High-Impact Practices area, which surveys experiences with learning communities, service-learning, research with faculty, internships, study abroad and culminating experiences. An impressive 91 percent of Centre seniors engaged in these special undergraduate opportunities compared to only 53 percent among Southeast private colleges, 60 percent among all public and private colleges and universities, and 85 percent among private colleges.
In addition, seniors rated very highly how their experiences at Centre have positively contributed to their knowledge, skills and personal development in numerous areas. The highest ranked areas include “thinking critically and analytically” (97 percent responded “very much” or “quite a bit”), “writing clearly and effectively” (96 percent), “speaking clearly and effectively” (95 percent) and “working effectively with others” (88 percent).
Other highly ranked areas include “developing or clarifying a personal code of values and ethics” (79 percent), “being an informed and active citizen” (77 percent), “solving complex real-world problems and understanding people of other backgrounds” (both 75 percent) and “analyzing numerical and statistical information” (73 percent).
“We take the student educational experience very seriously,” says Vice President for Academic Affairs Stephanie Fabritius, “and believe strongly in evaluation and assessment. NSSE provides both, and from a longitudinal standpoint that positively influences our understanding of what’s working in- and outside of the classroom.
“Once again,” Fabritius adds, “our NSSE results corroborate our other measures that highlight the strength and dedication of our faculty and staff in providing outstanding experiences in the overall college experience for our students.”
Because the purpose of NSSE is to provide the best possible assessment data for colleges to improve educational quality, Fabritius is quick to suggest, “Although these results are strong, we will study them more deeply in order to see how we might hone the experiences even more.”
The results offer an accurate reflection, since they represent a 53 percent response rate for first-year students, compared to much lower response rates of 21 percent for all NSSE participants, 30 percent among Southeastern private colleges and 35 percent for private colleges nationwide. Similarly, the Centre response rate among seniors was 55 percent, compared to response rates of 26 percent for all NSSE participants, 39 percent among Southeastern private colleges and 42 percent for all private colleges nationwide.
By Michael Strysick