Majority of first-time freshmen and seniors at Valdosta StateUniversity rate their experience 'good' or 'excellent'

February 8, 2006

Charles Harmon Director of University Relations, Sementha Mathews Manager of Public Information and Media Relations

Majority of first-time freshmen and seniors at Valdosta StateUniversity rate their experience 'good' or 'excellent'

Findings from the 2005 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) show 88 percent of first-year freshmen and senior students at Valdosta State University evaluate their educational experience as "good" or "excellent," and 85 percent of both groups report that they would "probably" or "definitely" attend VSU again if they could start over. These figures are slightly above the state and national averages of over 237,000 randomly selected first-time freshmen and senior students from 528 four-year institutions across the United States.

The freshmen and senior academic years represent two especially critical periods in the undergraduate experience at which to collect data. Experiences of first-time freshmen largely determine the rate at which this group will remain at VSU to complete their degrees, and as seniors, the students are able to reflect upon their academic careers at VSU. Overall, NSSE survey results confirmed VSU's areas of strength in three out of five benchmarks, while also providing a baseline by which to analyze and assess areas for future improvement.

A total of 478 VSU students responded�261 first-time freshmen and 217 seniors�to specific questions relating to the five benchmarks: Level of Academic Challenge, Active and Collaborative Learning, Student-Faculty Interaction, Enriching Educational Experiences, and Supportive Campus Environment. Results were then compared to other University System of Georgia (USG) institutions, Master's institutions, and four-year institutions across the nation with the purpose of providing VSU with data to improve undergraduate education, inform state accountability and accreditation efforts, and facilitate national and sector benchmarking.

VSU received positive student feedback in several areas. When compared with their USG peers, senior students expressed a significantly higher level of active and collaborative learning, first-year students rated VSU significantly higher in supportive campus environment, and both first-year freshmen and senior students expressed significantly higher levels of student-faculty interaction. In these benchmarks, VSU's student responses were comparable to other Master's institutions and nationally.

Although survey results show room for improvement in the benchmarks of enriching educational experiences and level of academic challenge�areas where the university was below the national norm�there were positive findings within those same areas that confirmed the regional university is making progress. For example, 58 percent of VSU's first-year and 68 percent of senior students said they "often" or "very often" worked harder than they thought they could to meet an instructor's standards or expectations. This compares with 55 percent of first-year and 61 percent of senior students at other Master's-level institutions.

Valdosta State University's President Ronald M. Zaccari said, "We are especially pleased with the positive responses that indicate a supportive campus environment and meaningful teaching and learning interaction among our faculty and students. The NSSE results reinforce VSU's commitment to assess current academic environments, define areas that need to be improved, and plan for enhanced daily operations and expanded facilities."

The NSSE, sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, has surveyed over 844,000 students in the past six years at nearly a thousand four-year colleges and universities across the nation. The underlying principle of the survey is that engagement is a critical factor in the educational process, and students who devote time and energy to desired activities are more likely to develop the habits that lead to success. As a result, they have become a leading authority on the improvement of undergraduate education, enhancing student success, and promoting college quality.

The NSSE, which was conducted for the first time from late February through May 2005, is being offered again at VSU during the spring 2006 semester. Randomly selected freshmen and senior students will be receiving invitations to participate as early as mid February. The new data will be compared with the 2005 NSSE report to continue to provide the regional university with a synopsis of its students' undergraduate experience.

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