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Feature

Smiling students walk on the pedestrian bridge over Washington Avenue.

More students are smiling about their experiences at the University of Minnesota, according to results of the 2005 Student Experience Survey.

Undergraduates give U high marks on surveys

By Rick Moore

March 21, 2006

Students are increasingly satisfied with their experiences at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, according to data presented to the Board of Regents at its March meeting.

The information comes from the University's 2005 Student Experience and Senior Exit Surveys. The results show satisfaction levels at the Twin Cities, Morris, and Duluth campuses at all-time highs. While students at Morris continue to have the highest ratings of satisfaction, the Twin Cities campus has made the largest gains in recent years, according to the Student Experience Survey (SES).

The SES is administered every other year, and asks students to rate their particular University campus in a number of categories based on a qualitative scale, with a score of 1 indicating "very poor" and 6 indicating "excellent."

In terms of overall satisfaction, the average rating of undergraduates on the Twin Cities campus was 4.91, up from 4.72 in 2003 and 4.45 in 2001. On the Morris campus, the average rating was 5.16, up from 5.09 in 2003 and the highest of any University campus. The average rating for undergraduates at Duluth and Crookston was 4.85.

There is a strong correlation between students' satisfaction and their participation in what are called "intensive activities," such as mentoring programs, internships, study abroad, and working with faculty on a research project.

Compared to 2003, undergraduates on the Twin Cities campus gave the University higher marks in most areas. The mean score for "overall quality of the University academic programs" rose from 4.52 in 2003 to 4.67 in 2005. Other categories showing strong improvement were "quality of research facilities" (up from 4.27 in 2003 to 4.45 in 2005), "overall quality of classrooms" (4.07 to 4.24), and "cultural diversity among the student body" (4.20 to 4.35). Students also indicated improvement in the overall physical environment of campus, availability of places to study, and the administration's responsiveness to student concerns. Students were less satisfied with the "cost of attending the University" (2.94 in 2003 to 2.84 in 2005).

There is a strong correlation between students' satisfaction and their participation in what are called "intensive activities," such as mentoring programs, internships, study abroad, and working with faculty on a research project. Students who participated in five such activities rated their satisfaction level nearly six-tenths of a point higher than students who didn't participate in any such activities.

"Students who are more involved get higher grades, they graduate on a more timely basis, and they report higher levels of satisfaction," said vice provost for undergraduate education Craig Swan in the presentation to the regents' Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs Committee.

Separate from the Student Experience Survey, the Senior Exit Survey is administered to graduating seniors every year, with a long version given in even years and a short version in odd years. One finding of the survey is that students on the Twin Cities campus work at one or more jobs more than students at any of the other University campuses. About 75 percent of Twin Cities-campus students work, and 25 percent work more than 20 hours per week. But since 1997, there has been virtually no change in the number of students working or the amount of hours they work on average.

On the Twin Cities campus, of the students who took longer than four years to graduate, a number of reasons were cited as being very important or somewhat important to the extra duration. The top reasons were "had to work more hours to pay for tuition" (47 percent) and "changed majors or chose a major after completing lots of credits" (46 percent). Twenty-nine percent said they wanted to take a lighter course load to focus on grades.