Centre exceeds national average in all NSSE categories
Prospective students have no end of rankings to peruse when undertaking their college search process. And while each ranking system purports to be more objective and unbiased than the next, there’s only one source that relies on assessment from an institution’s current students.
The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), conducted by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, annually surveys first-year students and seniors on a total of 42 performance indicators, all focused on five main areas.
Centre College has participated in NSSE for the survey’s entire 11-year existence, and once again has outperformed its peers and benchmark institutions nationwide. Even more, this year it improved upon its already high level of satisfaction in four of the five areas.
“Clearly, this news is gratifying,” says Dr. Stephanie Fabritius, vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the College at Centre. “It not only confirms the strength of our faculty but also our academic mission to offer a personal education anchored in a collaborative and engaged learning experience.”
Fabritius adds, “NSSE is a sound and objective measure of student satisfaction. We use it for our own assessment purposes, but it is also useful for prospective students and their families.”
In Centre’s case, 277 students were randomly selected for the 2011 survey. The questions they were asked were then grouped around five benchmark areas: Level of Academic Challenge, Active and Collaborative Learning, Student-Faculty Interaction, Enriching Educational Experiences and Supportive Campus Environment.
Centre is then benchmarked against three comparison groups, including private colleges in the Southeast, all national private liberal arts colleges and the total NSSE survey cohort of participating private and public colleges and universities.
The area in which Centre this year saw even stronger assessment over a 10-year period is Active and Collaborative Learning, where the College already performs higher than its peers. This assesses how actively involved students are in their learning, both individually and working with others. NSSE reports that by their senior year, 70 percent of Centre seniors reported participating in some form of practicum, internship, field experience, co-op or clinical assignment.
Level of Academic Challenge also improved. This area asks students about the quality of intellectual and creative challenge they encounter. A total 97 percent of first-year students felt that Centre places substantial emphasis on academics. In addition, 97 percent of first-year students reported a substantial emphasis on analyzing basic elements of an idea or theory and 95 percent reported a favorable emphasis on synthesizing and organizing ideas.
By far, the benchmark area in which Centre particularly excels above its peers is Enriching Educational Experiences. To demonstrate the diverse educational experience Centre offers, 80 percent of first-year students said they frequently had serious conversations with students who are different from them in terms of their religious, political or personal beliefs. In addition, 83 percent of students reported studying abroad, and 88 percent reported their involvement in community service or volunteer work.
“We are grateful to continue receiving accolades from each and every college ranking and guidebook, but the NSSE results are particularly rewarding,” says John A. Roush, president of Centre College. “The students themselves tell us how we are doing as an institution, and they are the single most important reason why we’re here.”