2000 HEDS Senior Survey

Quantitative Report

Prepared April, 2002, by Mary Ann Weaver and Lindsey Chappell

 

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 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. 

 

Table 1

Percentages of Seniors Who Participated in Different Academic Activities

Activities During College

Earlham

Peer Group

COFHE Group

Semester or Year Abroad

79%

44%

47%

Independent Study

64%

53%

47%

Off-Campus Internship

53%

46%

66%

Apply for Grant or Fellowship

29%

24%

------

Summer Paid Internship

29%

29%

------

Summer Travel Abroad

27%

18%

------

Racial/Cultural Awareness Program

25%

16%

34%

Gender Studies Program

25%

15%

------

Residence Hall Assistantship

24%

11%

------

Leadership Training

22%

24%

------

Sexual Harassment Program

18%

9%

24%

Honor Society

16%

31%

------

Table 2

Percentages of Seniors Who Actively Participated in Each Activity

Activity

First Year

Fourth Year

Percent Increase or Decrease

Religious Group

82%

59%

-23%

Performing Arts

80%

64%

-16%

Volunteer Service

80%

57%

-23%

Political Club

79%

39%

-40%

Intercollegiate Athletics

77%

60%

-17%

Social Action Group

73%

51%

-22%

Cultural Group

50%

57%

+7%

Intramural Athletics

41%

73%

+32%

Campus Media

36%

57%

+21%

Student Government

29%

47%

+18%

Student Newspaper

28%

67%

+39%

Literary Magazine

13%

38%

+28%

Faculty Research

9%

61%

+52%

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.

Table 3

Frequency of Activities

                                              

Activity

Earlham

Peer Group

Academic Discussions with Students

3.5

3.1

Cultural Events

3.2

2.6

Class Presentations

3.1

3.0

Group Projects

3.0

2.9

Discussions with Students of Different Beliefs

3.0

2.9

Guest in Faculty Member's Home

2.2

2.0

Religious Services

2.1

1.7

Multimedia Presentations

2.0

2.1

Organized Demonstrations

1.5

1.4

4=Very often, 3=Often, 2=Occasionally, 1=Never

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.

Table 4

Enhancement of Abilities

Enhancement of Abilities

Earlham

Peer Group

COFHE Group

Acquire New Skills and Knowledge

3.5

3.5

3.47

Gain In-depth Knowledge of a Subject

3.5

3.5

3.40

Understand Myself

3.5

3.4

3.38

Think Analytically and Logically

3.4

3.5

3.50

Function Independently

3.4

3.5

3.38

Work Under Pressure

3.4

3.5

------

Write Effectively

3.4

3.4

3.27

Develop Awareness of Social Problems

3.4

3.0

2.94

Plan and Execute Projects

3.3

3.2

3.18

Engage in Pursuit of Knowledge and Truth

3.3

3.1

------

Understand Moral and Ethical Issues

3.3

3.0

3.08

Place Problems in Historical Perspective

3.3

3.0

2.98

Establish Course of Action

3.2

3.3

3.01

Formulate Creative Ideas and Solutions

3.2

3.2

3.27

Function Effectively as a Team Member

3.2

3.1

3.04

Communicate Well Orally

3.1

3.2

3.11

Evaluate and Choose Alternatives

3.1

3.1

3.15

Develop Self-Esteem

3.1

3.1

2.92

Lead and Supervise Groups

3.1

3.0

3.04

Relate to people of Different Races, Nations, or Religions

3.1

2.9

2.67

Appreciate Art

3.0

2.9

2.75

Understand Process of Science

2.8

2.7

2.68

Evaluate Role of Science and Technology in Society

2.8

2.6

2.69

Read or Speak Foreign Language

2.8

2.3

2.27

Use Technology

2.7

2.9

------

Use Quantitative Tools

2.5

2.7

2.84

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 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.

Table 5

Quality of Academic Experiences

Mean

Earlham

Peer Group

COFHE Group

Faculty Availability Outside of Class

3.7

3.5

3.44

Student Interaction with Faculty

3.7

3.5

------

Internship or Study Off-Campus or Abroad

3.7

3.4

3.43

Independent Study

3.3

3.3

3.15

Major Advising

3.2

3.2

2.75

Tutorial Help or Other Academic Assistance

3.1

3.0

3.10

Availability of Courses

3.0

2.9

3.04

First Year Advising

2.9

2.7

2.35

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

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). 

Table 6

Quality of Course Instruction

Mean

Earlham

Peer Group

COFHE Group

Social Sciences

3.5

3.4

3.28

Humanities and Arts

3.3

3.4

3.35

Science and Math

3.3

3.1

2.94

Business

3.2

3.1

------

Engineering

2.5

2.8

3.01

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

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.

Table 7

Overall Satisfaction with Undergraduate Experience

Mean

Earlham

Peer Group

COFHE Group

Overall Satisfaction

3.4

3.3

3.41

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

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.

Table 8

Quality of Campus Services and Facilites

Mean

Earlham

Peer Group

COFHE Group

Library Services

3.6

3.1

------

Library Facilities and  Resources

3.4

3.1

3.41

Recreation/Athletics Facilities

3.4

3.1

3.18

Registrar's Office

3.4

2.9

------

Financial Aid Office

3.2

2.9

2.84

Computer Facilities and Resources

3.1

3.1

3.30

Financial Aid Package

3.1

3.0

2.63

Student Financial Services

3.1

2.9

2.87

Recreation/Athletics Programs

3.1

3.1

3.44

Classroom/Laboratory Facilities

3.0

3.2

3.28

Career Services

3.0

2.8

2.70

Student Health Services

2.9

2.8

2.66

Student Housing

2.9

2.7

2.85

Computer Services and Support

2.8

2.9

------

Student Center/Union Programs

2.8

2.8

------

Student Center/Union Facilities

2.6

2.8

------

Food Services

2.4

2.6

2.85

Counseling Services

2.0

2.9

2.91

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

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.
 

Table 9

Quality of Campus Life

Mean

Earlham

Peer Group

COFHE Group

Campus Safety

3.5

2.9

3.11

Religious/Spiritual Life

3.4

2.8

------

Lectures and Speakers

3.2

3.2

------

Sense of Community on Campus

3.2

2.6

3.13

Social Life on Campus

3.0

2.7

2.79

Student Government

2.9

2.6

------

Student Voice in Policies

2.8

2.5

------

Cultural and Fine Arts Programming

2.8

3.0

------

Ethnic/Racial Diversity

2.5

2.4

2.48

Climate for Minority Students on Campus

2.4

2.4

2.51

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

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.

Table 10

 

First Year

Second Year

Third Year

Fourth Year

Residence Hall

98%

79%

60%

36%

With Parents or Relatives

2%

2%

2%

2%

Interest Housing or Other Campus Housing

0%

18%

29%

40%

Fraternity or Sorority

0%

0%

0%

0%

Off-campus Apartment or Room

0%

1%

8%

23%

Table 11 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 22% to 12% upon graduating, and then decreased further to 7% when they considered their long-term goals.  There was a slight increase in those who wanted to pursue education or social sciences 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 11

Fields in Which College Graduates are Frequently Employed

Career

Career desired when entered college

First job upon graduation

Long term career goal

Undecided

22%

12%

7%

Education, Teaching Administration

10%

14%

12%

Social Science or Services

10%

12%

11%

Foreign Service, Diplomacy, International Relations

9%

2%

5%

College/University Teaching or Research

7%

3%

7%

Government, Politics, Public Policy

6%

6%

3%

Medical Doctor

6%

1%

2%

Biology/Life Science

5%

2%

1%

Arts/Entertainment

4%

9%

7%

Environmental Science, Natural Resources

4%

5%

4%

Other

4%

11%

7%

Law

3%

0%

5%

Architecture, Design, or Planning

2%

1%

5%

Medicine, Health Care, Other

2%

3%

2%

Physical Sciences

2%

0%

1%

Religious Ministry or Service

2%

1%

7%

Computer Programming, Science, or Technology

1%

0%

1%

Homemaker

1%

1%

2%

Library, Information Science

1%

3%

3%

Publishing, Print Journalism

1%

1%

3%

Accounting

0%

0%

0%

Advertising, Public Relations

0%

1%

1%

Broadcasting, Media Productions

0%

2%

2%

Business Owner, Proprietor, Entrepreneur

0%

0%

1%

College/University Administration

0%

3%

0%

Engineering

0%

0%

0%

Finance

0%

2%

0%

Hospitality, Travel, Tourism

0%

1%

0%

Management

0%

2%

3%

Marketing, Sales

0%

0%

0%

Mathematics, Statistics

0%

0%

0%

Military Science

0%

0%

0%

Retail

0%

1%

----

Sports, Recreation

0%

0%

1%

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. 

Table 12

Important Career Considerations

Earlham

Peer Group

COFHE Group

Interesting Daily Work

3.4

3.5

3.18

Creativity and Initiative

3.4

3.2

2.57

Intellectual Challenge

3.3

3.3

3.43

Quality of Colleagues and Clients

3.1

3.1

3.09

Expression of Personal Values

3.1

3.0

-------

Work for Social Change

2.9

2.6

2.52

Stable, Secure Future

2.7

3.2

3.16

Leadership Potential

2.6

2.9

2.22

Availability of Jobs

2.3

2.7

-------

High Income Potential

2.0

2.6

2.70

Limited Working Hours

1.9

2.0

2.57

Social Recognition or Status

1.6

2.0

-------

Scale: 4=Essential, 3=Very Important, 2=Somewhat Important, 1=Not Important

Conclusions

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.

Appendix

COFHE GROUP

  1. Brown University
  2. Dartmouth College
  3. Swarthmore College
  4. University of Notre Dame

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

 

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