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National Student Survey Suggests UC Holds ‘High-Impact' Learning

UC is also highlighted as a national model in using the data to improve the student educational experience.

Date: 11/9/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre and Dottie Stover

UC ingot   UC reflects a new national survey released today that suggests universities are showing steady improvement in the quality of undergraduate education as students are exposed to more effective educational experiences. UC is also highlighted as a national model for applying the research toward improving undergraduate education.

Input from University of Cincinnati students is included in the 2009 report from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE, pronounce Nessie), a survey of 360,000 students attending 617 U.S. colleges and universities. The report took a special look at trends in student engagement at more than 200 of the institutions – including UC – that had four-to-six years of data going back to 2004.

The report also measured percentages of students who participated in so called “high-impact” educational practices such as learning communities, service-learning, study abroad and undergraduate research. The report found that 41 percent of institutions showed positive results on at least one quality measure for first-year students and 28 percent showed those trends for seniors. UC freshmen who took part in the survey showed improvement on virtually every benchmark, while UC seniors showed some improvement or remained steady from the last survey.

“UC’s impressive enrollment growth stems, in part, from its impressive gains in student retention,” says Anthony J. Perzigian, UC senior vice president and provost. “The NSSE data for UC clearly point to an environment where student success and retention are a premium.” 

The UC Office of Institutional Research reports significant improvement among UC freshmen and seniors in the supportive campus environment category. UC freshmen and seniors also indicated significant improvements in the quality of UC’s academic advising.

 This fall, UC announced the highest enrollment in nearly three decades at 39,667. UC’s overall freshman class numbers 6,200, the highest in UC history. UC has also experienced dramatic improvements in retention rates across the board.

The NSSE report, titled, “Assessment for Improvement: Tracking Student Engagement Over Time” measures five key areas of educational performance

  • Level of academic challenge
  • Active and collaborative learning
  • Student-faculty interaction
  • Enriching educational experiences
  • Supportive campus environment

NSSE took a random survey of freshmen and seniors from participating institutions last spring. The survey held responses from 1,292 UC students.


In the spring and summer of 2008, NSSE also conducted an in-depth examination of how institutions use their survey results, based on interviews with more than 40 university representatives. UC was highlighted in the NSSE report, “Lessons from the Field 2009,” for using NSSE survey results to evaluate ongoing initiatives and to establish new ones, such as UC’s One Stop Student Service Center that provided a central location on campus (and on the Web) to take care of the business of being a student.

The UC student feedback from the surveys has also led to 24-hour computer labs and additional learning communities. Learning communities help freshmen experience the feel of a small college within a large, research university, as well as build friendships with classmates as they explore common areas of academic interests. In the latest survey, UC freshmen participating in learning communities were ahead of the national average, as well as the average of other high-research universities and urban public institutions.

“NSSE has become an important resource in providing insight into where to apply resources and assess effectiveness of impact,” says Caroline Miller, senior associate vice president and associate provost for enrollment management. “It is a qualitative tool that helps us validate the numbers.”

UC has also used NSSE results as part of communicating the university’s accountability in building on the success of students.

The NSSE 2009 report is sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.