1999 HEDS Senior Survey 

Quantitative Report

Prepared July, 2002, by Mary Ann Weaver and Marissa Pine

 

Click here for links to tables within this report.

Introduction

This continues a series of annual reports on the longitudinal follow-up survey conducted with each Earlham senior class.  This research seems quite appropriate in a time when increasing national attention is being given to issues of accountability and assessment.  As a college, Earlham has been very clear about its mission and aspirations for students.  It is the intention of this survey to assess the effectiveness of Earlham's achieving its goals by collecting empirical data.  As educators, we have all encountered sufficient anecdotal data to convince ourselves that our efforts have been successful.  In communicating with outside constituencies, on the other hand, it may be useful to complement such anecdotal reports with a body of more objective data.  The present research is one attempt to do that.

In the Spring of 1999, an invitation to participate in a senior survey was issued to all seniors.  The survey instrument used was designed by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS).  The report provided by HEDS gives comparative data from our peer institutions.  Eighty-two of the 197 graduating seniors completed the survey.  In this report, we describe various characteristics of our students as they are preparing to move beyond Earlham.  This research summarizes such aspects as the students' family backgrounds, majors, and foreign study experiences.  It also sheds some light on their experiences at Earlham, and their feelings about those experiences.  In addition to this, the survey also looks at their future plans and priorities.  Beyond such contemporary description, the survey attempts to make longitudinal comparisons of many of these students' self reported attitudes, values, and perceptions with those of a Peer Group (see Appendix).

Characteristics of the Sample

Of the group of seniors who were surveyed, 38% were male and 63% were female.  A total of 68% of the fathers and 76% of the mothers of these students had at least a college degree.  11% of the mothers as well as 19% of the fathers had completed some amount of college work, but had not obtained a degree.
The seniors were asked several questions about their activities during their time at Earlham.  Table 1 assesses some of the student's extracurricular activities during college.  The most significant differences in extra-curricular activities came from religious groups and performing arts participation, in which Earlham students were much more involved, and social fraternities/sororities, in which Earlham students were significantly less involved than members of their peer group. This last fact is not surprising considering that there are no fraternities or sororities on Earlham's campus. 

 

Table 1

Percentages of Seniors Who Participated in Different Extracurricular Activities


Activities During College
Earlham
Peer Group
Student Government
11%
18%
Newspaper/Magazine
20%
17%
Volunteer Service
78%
68%
Religious Group
40%
19%
Social Frat/Sorority
1%
30%
Honor Society
14%
32%
Academic Club
11%
27%
Political Club
20%
11%
Cultural Club
29%
24%
Performing Arts
65%
26%
Intercollegiate Athletics
44%
36%
Intramural Athletics
43%
50%

Table 2 assesses some of the academic activities that the seniors participated in during college. The most significant difference between Earlham seniors and the peer group concerned study abroad. Nearly twice as many Earlham students participated in study abroad as the members of their peer group. Earlham students also participated in cultural awareness programs more often than the members of their peer group. 

Table 2

Percentages of Seniors Who Participated in Academic Activities
Activity
Earlham
Peer Group
Faculty Research
35%
24%
Independent Study/Research
68%
58%
Study Abroad
80%
46%
Off-Campus Internship
49%
44%
Cultural Awareness Program
39%
24%
Sexual Harassment Program
25%
21%

Table 3 shows some abilities and types of knowledge that may be developed in a bachelor's degree program.  The seniors indicated the extent to which each capacity was enhanced by their undergraduate experiences.

Table 3

Enhancement of Abilities


Enhancement of Abilities
Earlham
Peer Group
Acquire New Skills and Knowledge
3.4
3.5
Gain In-depth Knowledge of a Subject
3.5
3.5
Understand Myself
3.4
3.4
Think Analytically and Logically
3.5
3.4
Function Independently
3.3
3.4
Write Effectively 
3.6
3.4
Develop Awareness of Social Problems
3.3
2.9
Accomplish Goals
3.0
3.1
Approach Complex Projects
3.2
3.2
Understand Moral and Ethical Issues
3.3
3.0
Place Problems in Perspective
3.2
3.0
Formulate Creative Ideas and Solutions
3.2
3.3
Function Effectively as a Team Member
3.2
3.0
Communicate Well Orally
3.3
3.2
Evaluate and Choose Alternatives
3.1
3.1
Develop Self-Esteem
3.2
3.1
Lead and Supervise Groups
3.0
3.0
Relate to people of Different Races, Nations, or Religions
3.0
2.7
Appreciate Art
2.8
2.8
Understand Process of Science
2.9
2.7
Evaluate Role of Science and Technology in Society
2.8
2.6
Read or Speak Foreign Language
2.8
2.3
Use Computers
2.9
3.1
Use Quantitative Tools
2.7
2.7
Scale: 4=Greatly, 3=Moderately, 2=A Little, 1=Not at all
Many of the seniors reported that these capacities were enhanced by their undergraduate experience at Earlham.  The capacities that were enhanced the most (a mean of 3.5) are gaining in-depth knowledge of a subject, thinking analytically and logically, and writing effectively.  Acquiring new skills and knowledge, understanding myself, functioning independently, developing an awareness of social problems, understanding moral and ethical issues, and communicating well orally all  followed with a mean of 3.3 or 3.4. The ability that was enhanced the least was using quantitative tools. The majority of the Earlham seniors responses were very similar to those of the peer group. Earlham students did, however, feel that their abilities to develop and awareness of social problems, understand moral and ethical issues, relate to people of different races, nations, or religions, and their ability to read or speak a foreign language had been enhanced more so than those of their peer group. 

Table 4 refers to the quality of the seniors' academic experiences while they attended Earlham, while Table 5 demonstrates the quality of their course instruction; Table 6 rates the seniors' overall satisfaction with their educational experience at Earlham. 

In Table 4, many seniors were generally satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of their academic experience while at Earlham.  They were most satisfied with student interactions with the faculty members and the opportunity to participate in study off-campus or abroad during their time spent at Earlham. They were least satisfied with academic advising.  Earlham generally rated their academic experiences higher than the Peer Group, particularly in regard to student interaction with faculty and off-campus study. 

Table 4

Quality of Academic Experiences


Mean
Earlham 
Peer Group
Faculty Availability Outside of Class
3.7
3.6
Student Interaction with Faculty
3.8
3.5
Internship
3.2
3.1
Off-Campus Study
3.8
3.5
Independent Study
3.5
3.5
Academic Advising
3.1
3.1
Availability of Courses
3.2
3.1

Scale: 4=Very Satisfied, 3=Generally Satisfied, 2=Generally Dissatisfied, 1=Very Dissatisfied

Table 5 shows how the seniors rated the quality of course instruction during their undergraduate experience at Earlham.  Social sciences, Humanities and Arts, and Science and Math all rated with a 3.4. Business had a 3.1 and Engineering a 3.0. 

Table 5

Quality of Course Instruction


Mean
Earlham
Peer Group
Social Sciences
3.4
3.4
Humanities and Arts
3.4
3.5
Science and Math
3.4
3.3
Business
3.1
3.1
Engineering
3.0
3.3
Scale:  4=Very Satisfied, 3=Generally Satisfied, 2=Generally Dissatisfied, 1=Very Dissatisfied

Table 6 shows the seniors' overall mean satisfaction with their undergraduate education at Earlham.  Earlham seniors rated their overall satisfaction with their education experience a 3.4, while the Peer Group rated theirs a 3.3.

Table 6

Overall Satisfaction with Undergraduate Experience
Mean
Earlham
Peer Group
Overall Satisfaction
3.4
3.3
Scale: 4=Very Satisfied, 3=Generally Satisfied, 2=Generally Dissatisfied, 1=Very Dissatisfied

Table 7 demonstrates the seniors' satisfaction with the quality of campus services and facilities.  The top two categories that the Earlham seniors rated as the most satisfactory with a 3.3 are library facilities and resources and career services.  Earlham's means were generally similar to  those of the Peer Group, and in many cases, higher.  A significant difference is found in satisfaction with career services; Earlham's mean is a 3.3, while the mean for the Peer Group  was only a 2.9. Other significant differencesweres found in food services, where Earlham students ranked food services at only a 2.2, while the Peer Group rated food services with a 2.6, and in counseling services, which Earlham students ranked at 2.7 compared to 3.0 for the Peer Group 

Table 7

Quality of Campus Services and Facilities


Mean
Earlham
Peer Group
Library Facilities and  Resources 
3.3
3.1
Business Office
2.9
2.9
Financial Aid Services
2.9
2.9
Recreation/Athletics Programs
3.2
3.3
Classroom Facilities
3.0
3.2
Laboratory Facilities
3.0
3.3
Career Services
3.3
2.9
Student Health Services
2.8
2.7
Student Housing
3.0
2.8
Computer Services and Support
3.1
3.1
Student Center/Union 
2.5
2.7
Food Services
2.2
2.6
Counseling Services
2.7
3.0
Scale: 4=Very Satisfied, 3=Generally Satisfied, 2=Generally Dissatisfied, 1=Very Dissatisfied

Table 8 refers to the quality of campus life.  Religious/Spiritual Life and Extracurricular offerings both received the highest satisfaction rating when it came to the quality of campus life at Earlham.  Second to this is satisfaction with campus safety.  Earlham tries to maintain its diverse image, and one way in which it does so is by attracting students with different religious and spiritual backgrounds.  Earlham tries to provide a safe environment in which all students can practice their own personal religious and spiritual beliefs.  It is quite interesting to note, however, that Earlham seniors' mean satisfaction with ethnic and racial diversity was only a 2.5.  There also seems to be a general dissatisfaction with the climate for minority students on campus. 

 

Table 8

Quality of Campus Life
Mean
Earlham
Peer Group
Campus Safety
3.2
2.8
Religious/Spiritual Life
3.3
2.9
Extracurricular Offerings
3.3
3.2
Social Life on Campus
2.9
2.8
Student Government
2.7
2.7
Student Voice in Policies
3.0
2.5
Ethnic/Racial Diversity
2.5
2.4
Climate for Minority Students on Campus
2.5
2.4
Scale: 4=Very Satisfied, 3=Generally Satisfied, 2=Generally Dissatisfied, 1=Very Dissatisfied

Table 9 shows a comparison of where Earlham seniors had lived during their senior year at Earlham.  Eighty-one percent of the seniors lived in college housing, either dorms or theme/friendship houses. Another 16% of students lived off-campus, while only 2% chose to live with parents or relatives. 

Table 9

 
Senior Year
Peer Group
Dorm/College Housing
81%
52%
With Parents or Relatives
2%
4%
Fraternity or Sorority
0%
6%
Off-campus Apartment/Room Within Walking Distance
15%
26%
Other Housing not in Walking Distance
1%
12%

Table 10 represents the careers that seniors desired when they first entered Earlham, the first job they plan to have after graduation, and the long term career goal that they have in mind.  When most seniors first entered college as freshmen, the majority of them were undecided in what they wanted to pursue.  That significantly decreased from 24% to 8% upon graduating, but then rose again to 10% when they considered their long-term goals.  There was a considerable increase in those who wanted to pursue college/university teaching or research and government/politics their freshman year, as compared to their long-term goals.  This goes to show that many students change the career that they want to pursue after experiencing college.  However, the table does show that as the seniors progressed through their undergraduate education, they started to narrow down their future career goals. 

Table 10

Fields in Which College Graduates are Frequently Employed


Career Career desired when entered college First job upon graduation Long term career goal
Undecided
24%
8%
10%
Social Science/Services
13%
18%
9%
Education, Teaching Administration
12%
15%
6%
Medical Doctor
7%
4%
6%
Arts/Entertainment
7%
4%
10%
Medicine, Health Care, 
Other
5%
1%
3%
Environmental Science, Natural Resources
5%
5%
4%
Business/Industry
5%
8%
1%
Other
4%
9%
8%
College/University 
Teaching or Research
4%
5%
14%
Communications
4%
4%
1%
Law
3%
1%
3%
Natural Science/Stats
3%
3%
3%
Architecture, Design, or Planning
1%
1%
5%
Government/Politics
1%
3%
14%
Computer 
Programming,
Science, or 
Technology
1%
4%
3%
Library, Museum 
Science
1%
0%
0%
Religious Ministry or Service
0%
1%
4%
Homemaker
0%
0%
0%
College/University Administration
0%
0%
0%
Engineering
0%
1%
1%
Skilled Trades
0%
1%
1%
Military/Law Enforcement
0%
0%
0%
Sports, Recreation
0%
1%
0%

Table 11 takes a look at some of the important career considerations that the seniors reflected upon as they decided what career they wanted to pursue.  Many seniors had more intellectual rather than individualistic attitudes when it came to which career considerations were more important.  Topping the list is interesting daily work, creativity and initiative, and intellectual challenge, while high income potential and social recognition or status are less important to them.  The Peer Group's  means were considerably higher (2.6, 2.7) than that of Earlham in considering the importance of income potential and social recognition.

Table 11

Important Career Considerations
Earlham
Peer Group
Interesting Daily Work
3.4
3.4
Creativity and Initiative
3.3
3.3
Intellectual Challenge
3.3
3.2
Expression of Personal 
Values
3.2
3.0
Quality of Colleagues and Clients
3.1
3.1
Work for Social Change
2.9
2.7
Preferred Location
2.9
2.9
Stable, Secure Future
2.8
3.1
Time for Other 
Activities
2.8
2.5
Keeping Options Open
2.8
2.8
Limited Supervision
2.5
2.5
Availability of Jobs
2.4
2.5
High Income Potential
2.1
2.6
Not Much Pressure
2.1
2.0
No Long Commitment 
1.8
1.8
Social Recognition or 
Status
1.7
2.1
Limited Training
1.5
1.5

 
Scale: 4=Essential, 3=Very Important, 2=Somewhat Important, 1=Not Important
Conclusions
This data provides us with one perspective on the characteristics and experiences of our graduating seniors.  The sample appears to represent a fairly good cross-section of the total senior class.  Nevertheless, this research embodies all of the usual limitations of the survey approach.  In that sense, it is probably most appropriate to view this data as raising questions rather than providing answers.  Why, for example, are these students relatively satisfied with certain aspects of their Earlham experience, and less satisfied with other aspects?  How have Earlham professors been influential in their lives?  Investigating these kinds of questions will require the incorporation of personal interviews into our research categories.

In addition to offering us immediate insights into our seniors' lives, this survey has provided us with a basis for ongoing longitudinal research.  Comparisons made five or ten years after graduation, using this baseline information may reveal significant life patterns.  In the meantime, as we strive to interpret the data herein presented, it is to be hoped that process of interpretation will yield ideas for ways to refine our educational practices so as to further enhance the development of Earlham students.

It is also worth recognizing that many of these students found it to be helpful to have such an opportunity to reflect upon their lives in a systematic way.  As they faced one of the most important transitions in their lives, it appears that this survey itself may prove to be a significant aspect of their Earlham experience!  If so, that impact might provide sufficient justification  for this "research" endeavor.  We may hope, however, that these data may produce more general insights of value to Earlham as an institution and to our growing understanding of young adult development.

Appendix

PEER GROUP
  1. Dickinson College
  2. Eckerd College
  3. Franklin & Marshall
  4. Gettysburg College
  5. Hampshire College
  6. Hobart & Wm Smith
  7. Lewis & Clark College
  8. Pitzer College
  9. Reed College
  10. Union College
  11. University of the South
  12. Washington College
  13. Whittier College
 

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Created by Mary Ann Weaver
weavema@earlham.edu
April 30, 2002