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National Survey Finds DePauw Students Engaged, Challenged and Fulfilled

November 12, 2002

November 12, 2002, Greencastle, Ind. - DePauw University outpaces peer institutions and national averages in every category in the 2002 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the third annual examination of the efforts students devote to educationally sound activities and what colleges do to prompt students to take advantage of these activities. Released today, the survey measures five benchmarks: level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment. The report is based on 206,844 randomly-selected first-year and senior students from 366 participating four-year colleges and universities across the nation, including DePauw.

“We're very proud of the programs and people at DePauw University,” says DePauw President Robert G. Bottoms. “The findings of the NSSE confirm that our commitments to faculty development, enriching the first-year experience and making this community an economically, geographically and racially diverse place in which to learn and live have made a very positive impact, and underscore that DePauw is a university of increasing national significance.”

In the area of “level of academic challenge” DePauw's scores of 64.5 for first-year students and 66.3 for seniors greatly exceed the average of America's baccalaureate-liberal arts colleges (57.7 and 61.0). The gap between DePauw and the national average of all colleges and universities (53.4 and 57.0) is even greater, a trend that carries through the other four categories:

Active and Collaborative Learning  First-Year Students/Seniors DePauw: 47.4/52.5, Bac-LA 44.0/51.7, National 41.3/49.9; Student-Faculty Interactions First-Year Students/Seniors DePauw: 46.0/54.0, Bac-LA 41.1/50.9, National 36.2/43.5; Enriching Educational Experiences First-Year Students/Seniors DePauw 69.3/61.4, Bac-LA 64.4/56.2, National 56.3/48.0; Supportive Campus Environment  First-Year Students/Seniors DePauw 65.8/63.4, Bac-LA 64.5/61.8, National 60.7/57.7

Many studies show that student engagement is a strong predictor of how well a student learns. The more engaged students are in college, the more likely they are to develop the habits of the mind that are key to success after college, including participation in civic affairs.

The NSSE report, “From Promise to Progress: How Colleges and Universities Are Using Student Engagement Results to Improve Collegiate Quality,” gives schools a gauge of how well students are learning and what they are putting into, and getting out of, their undergraduate experience. “These findings can help campuses explore the connections between their expectations for student achievement and what students actually experience,” according to Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

NSSE director George D. Kuh adds, “prospective students and their parents can better determine a school's quality and fit by asking the kinds of questions NSSE asks: How many students work with faculty members on research and other activities? How much reading and writing is required? How often do students interact with other students who are from different backgrounds and cultures? How good is the academic advising?”

“In recent years, we've seen our retention rate—that is, the percentage of first-year students who return for their sophomore year--- climb to 91%, and it's even higher, 95%, for minority students,” noted Dr. Bottoms. “That underscores the survey's finding that students enjoy being at DePauw. The addition of sixty full-time faculty members in the past five years has clearly increased opportunities for collaboration and interaction in our classrooms and laboratories, which the NSSE also notes. This external barometer is further demonstration of DePauw's increasing excellence,” the President said.

The NSSE 2002 report is co-sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning. NSSE is supported by grants to Indiana University from Lumina Foundation for Education and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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