National Survey Seeks To Improve Retention, Graduation RatesBLOOMINGTON, Ind.Too many college students leave college before finishing; only about half earn a baccalaureate degree within six years; and many of those who stay in school don’t learn as much as they should. But a new project, based at Indiana University in Bloomington, aims to reverse these troubling trends.The project, “Documenting Effective Educational Practices” (DEEP), will examine the everyday workings of high-performing colleges and universities to learn what they do to promote student success. The effort is the first in a series of activities undertaken by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), an annual survey of colleges based at Indiana University, to respond to the national concern about improving the success rates of undergraduate students.Over the next two years, Project DEEP researchers will look closely at about 20 colleges and universities with better-than-predicted performance on the annual NSSE and higher-than-predicted graduation rates. Documenting and sharing those success stories will help other schools improve by giving faculty members, administrators and governing board members ideas on how to implement policies and practices that can help students succeed in college. The project also will show how information about the students’ experiences can be used to improve academic programs and support services.Higher education leaders have known for years that higher levels of student engagement lead to more learning and higher retention rates, but they had no reliable tool to measure these key outcomes until NSSE, an annual survey of college students, says George Kuh, head of the NSSE project and chancellor’s professor at Indiana University.Over the past three years, 617 four-year colleges and universities in 49 states have used the NSSE survey to get feedback from their students. NSSE’s results represent more than half of the nation’s full-time undergraduate students at four-year campuses.Along with NSSE, the project is being launched and supported by the American Association for Higher Education, the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College.Hundreds of major colleges and universities have voluntarily embraced the NSSE improvement initiative, said Martha D. Lamkin, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation for Education. “We believe this program offers a promising means of improving student success by helping a broad range of colleges across the country get better at educating and serving students,” Lamkin says.Project DEEP and the NSSE Institute are supported by a $1.3 million grant from Lumina Foundation for Education, a private, independent foundation dedicated to expanding access to higher education nationwide. Additional information about Project DEEP is available on the Web at <www.indiana.edu/~nsse/>.
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