January 8, 2015 by Darrell J. Pehr, NMSU News Center
New Mexico State University students pointed to good experiences in areas such as learning with their peers and the academic challenges they were offered while attending NMSU, according to a national study.
“It is important for us to learn as much as we can about the student experience here at NMSU,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Dan Howard. “The more we learn, the better we are able to emphasize the areas in which we have seen good success, and to improve the areas that need attention.”
The National Survey of Student Engagement measures universities across the country against similar institutions in each university’s geographic area. NMSU is compared to other participating public institutions in the Southwest. The 2014 results were recently announced.
Both freshman and senior students are surveyed. They are asked to rate their experiences in two ways: the amount of time and effort they put into their studies and other educationally purposeful activities, and how institutional resources, courses and other learning opportunities facilitate student participation in activities that matter to student learning, according to NSSE.
In the area of academic challenge, first-year students cited the opportunity for reflective and integrative learning as well as quantitative reasoning as strengths at NMSU. In the area of learning with their peers, the students identified the opportunity to learn with others and to have discussions with diverse groups as strengths.
Senior students agreed their academic experience at NMSU included good opportunities for quantitative reasoning, and that there were good collaborative learning activities at NMSU. In their experiences with faculty, they reported higher than average student-faculty interactions.
Both groups of students reported high participation in special “high-impact” undergraduate practices, such as learning communities, service-learning and research with faculty.
The survey of first-year students identified some areas at NMSU that could be improved, such as academic advising and interactions with staff, both of which were less highly rated by NMSU students than by students at peer institutions.
Interestingly, seniors at NMSU had a better opinion of academic advising than freshmen, although they continued to rate interactions with staff and interactions with other administrative staff and offices less highly than students at other public institutions in the Southwest.
While there is room for improvement, “this is mostly a very positive survey,” Howard said.
Overall, the results of the NSSE survey showed deep satisfaction among NMSU students, with 88 percent of both first-year and senior students rating their overall experience as “good” or “excellent,” 2 percent ahead of other institutions. Eighty-three percent of first-year students and 84 percent of senior students said they would “definitely” or “probably” attend NMSU again.
“They’re having a good experience here,” Howard said.
Some of the results mirror those found in an in-house survey of graduating students conducted earlier this year. Howard said students reported deep satisfaction in areas like facilities, community, curriculum, scheduling and the value of their education at NMSU. Howard was particularly pleased to see a great deal of satisfaction with the NMSU faculty, with more than 90 percent of students reporting being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” in their contact with faculty outside of class and the quality of instruction outside of the student’s major. Student approval peaked when it came to the quality of instruction in their major, with 97.5 percent “satisfied” or “very satisfied.”
“I am very pleased to see the success we are having inside the classroom,” Howard said. “It looks like we have some work to do to bring up the numbers in certain areas, but even our highest dissatisfaction ratings, in the range of 10 to 15 percent, are balanced by approval ratings of 85 to 90 percent in those categories. These surveys of our current and graduating students are important as we work to ensure that the student experience at NMSU is as good as it can be.”