2000 HEDS Senior Survey
Prepared April, 2002, by Mary Ann Weaver and Lindsey Chappell
Click here for links to tables within this report.
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 2000, 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. One hundred and nine of the 242 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 and the COFHE Group (see Appendix).
Characteristics of the Sample
Of the group of seniors who were surveyed, 30% were male and 70% were female. A total of 84% of the fathers and 80% of the mothers of these students had at least a college degree. 10% of the mothers as well as 7 % of the fathers had completed some amount of college work, but had not obtained a degree.
Several questions were asked of these seniors about their activities during their time at Earlham. Table 1 assesses some of the student's activities during college. These activities include different academic programs and leadership positions. The most significant differences in activities between the groups involves the semester or year abroad, where 79% of Earlham seniors participated and only 47% of the COFHE group and 44% of the Peer group participated.
Percentages of Seniors Who Participated in Different Academic Activities
Percentages of Seniors Who Actively Participated in Each Activity
Throughout their time at Earlham, many seniors changed the extracurricular activities that they were involved in from those they were involved in as freshman. There were many significant decreases in activities as well as many significant increases. The most significant decrease is the 40% decrease in the participation in a political club from the seniors' first year to their fourth year. Other significant decreases include a decrease in the participation in a religious group (-23%), a volunteer service (-23%), social action group (-22%), intercollegiate athletics (-17%), and performing arts (-16%). Despite these significant decreases, many seniors increased their participation in extracurricular activities from their first to fourth years. The most significant increase is the increase in faculty research from 9% their first year to 61% their senior year, or an increase of 52%! Other major increases include participation in the student newspaper (+39%), intramural athletics (+32%), a literary magazine (+28%), campus media (+21%), student government (+18%), and participation in a cultural group (+7%).
Table 3 compares the frequency of the following academic, cultural, and religious activities throughout the seniors' undergraduate career.
Frequency of Activities
Over their four year span at Earlham, the most frequent activity the seniors reported participating in was academic discussions with other students with a mean of 3.5. One of Earlham's main focuses is diversity, so many cultural events that encourage diversity are held here to help give the students a better understanding of other cultures. So it is not unusual that many seniors reported participating in cultural events with a mean of 3.2. Aside from these two activities, the seniors reported participating in class presentations, group projects, and discussions with students of different beliefs fairly often. However, being a guest in a faculty member's home, participating in religious services, multimedia presentations, and organized demonstrations were less frequent.
Table 4 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.
Enhancement of Abilities
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 acquiring new skills and knowledge, gaining in-depth knowledge of a subject, and understanding themselves better. Thinking analytically and logically, functioning independently, working under pressure, writing effectively, and developing an awareness of social problems followed with a mean of 3.4. The abilities that were enhanced only somewhat are understanding the process of science (2.8), evaluating the role of science and technology in society (2.8), reading or speaking a foreign language (2.8), using technology (2.7), and using quantitative tools (2.5).
Table 5 refers to the quality of the seniors' academic experiences while they attended Earlham, while Table 6 demonstrates the quality of their course instruction; Table 7 rates the seniors' overall satisfaction with their educational experience at Earlham.
In Table 5, many seniors were generally satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of their academic experience while at Earlham. They were most satisfied with faculty availability outside of class, student interactions with the faculty members, and the opportunity to take an internship or study off-campus or abroad during their time spent at Earlham. They were least satisfied with first year advising. Also, Earlham generally rated their academic experiences higher than the Peer Group and the COFHE Group.
Quality of Academic Experiences
Table 6 shows how the seniors rated the quality of course instruction during their undergraduate experience at Earlham. Social sciences rated the highest with a mean of 3.5, followed by Humanities and Arts (3.3), Science and Math (3.3), and Business (3.2).
Quality of Course Instruction
Table 7 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, as did the COFHE Group, meanwhile the Peer Group rated theirs a 3.3.
Overall Satisfaction with Undergraduate Experience
Table 8 demonstrates the seniors' satisfaction with the quality of campus services and facilities. The top four categories that the Earlham seniors rated as the most satisfactory are library services with a mean of 3.6, and library facilities and resources, recreation/athletics facilities, and the registrar's office with means of 3.4 respectively. Earlham's means were generally higher than those of the Peer Group and those of the COFHE Group. The most significant difference in the three different means is the difference in satisfaction with counseling services; Earlham's mean is only a 2.0, while the mean for the Peer Group and the COFHE Group was a 2.9.
Quality of Campus Services and Facilites
Table 9 refers to the quality of campus life. Campus safety received the highest satisfaction rating when it came to the quality of campus life at Earlham. Second to this is satisfaction with the spiritual and religious life. 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. Earlham students also express a general satisfaction with the sense of community on campus, which is rated considerably higher here at Earlham as compared to the Peer Group. However, it is quite interesting to note 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.
Quality of Campus Life
Table 10 shows a comparison of where Earlham seniors had lived during their four years at Earlham. Their first year, the majority (98%) lived in dormitories, while only 2 % lived with their parents or relatives. As the seniors progressed in their college education, there was a significant decrease in the number that lived in a dormitory. As the numbers of those who lived in the dorms decreased, the number of those who lived in campus houses or in an off-campus apartment increased. By their senior year only 36 % of seniors lived in the residence halls, as compared to 40% in some other form of campus housing, and 23% in an off-campus apartment or room.
Fields in Which College Graduates are Frequently Employed
Table 12 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 and intellectual challenge, while high income potential and social recognition or status are less important to them. However, the Peer Group and the COFHE Group's means were considerably higher (3.2, 3.16) than that of Earlham (2.7) in considering the importance of a stable and secure future.
These data provide 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 these 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? Why do these seniors report attending religious services less now than four years ago? 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.
Created by Mary Ann Weaver