Results for last year’s National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) are in and they look pretty good for USAO. I have uploaded a report for those brave souls that want to see some of the details (link below). For the rest of your, I thought I would provide a brief overview of these results.
What is NSSE?
NSSE is a survey administered to college and university freshman and seniors all over the United States and Canada. The idea behind this survey is to get a decent estimate of collegiate quality. To the extent that students at a given institution work on more rigorous assignments, collaborate with faculty and participate in enriched academic and social activities, schools vary in academic quality. For more depth on the nature of NSSE and what it measures, please see the official NSSE 2014 Results Report, or check out last year’s discussion on the topic.
In order to put USAO’s academic quality into some sort of context, I have created a few comparison, or benchmark groupings. The first of these is the Oklahoma Public group. Schools from our own state of Oklahoma with public governance (and funding) are included in this group. That is, assuming they participated in NSSE this year. I use these schools as a basis for comparison, not just because we have the same boss (the Oklahoma taxpayer), but also because current USAO students would likely have selected one of these schools had they not elected (wisely) to enroll here. This is a pretty decent way to figure out if that decision was a good one. Spoiler alert: It was.
The second comparison group I used in contextualizing our NSSE results was composed of all participating members of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). Institutions in this group, our sister schools, share a common goal of providing a quality liberal arts education without the private school price tag. USAO students searching for a less expensive liberal arts education could conceivably get this type of education at any one of these COPLAC schools, so I think it is a good idea to make sure we perform at least as well as they do.
The final comparison group I included aggregated the results of all liberal arts institutions. I almost did not include this group because these include some of the most prestigious and rigorous of schools in the world. Many of these schools have a reputation as selective, challenging and expensive, so comparing ourselves to them might make us look pretty bad by comparison (It’s why you seldom see me in the same room as Brad Pitt). However, these schools represent an ideal, a vision of what USAO strives to become (minus the hefty bill), so I decided to see how far we have left to go.
Without going into extensive detail, I am confident in characterizing these results as very positive for USAO. For many categories of academic quality, USAO exceeded scores of our comparison groups. Even for those categories where USAO was not significantly better, we at least did not score significantly worse. In fact, when we consider the group most likely to outperform USAO, (the liberal arts benchmark), I see the we only scored significantly worse in a single category. Given the tremendous disparity in resources, high potential for selection bias and range restriction, I find USAO’s performance to be remarkably positive.
For all of us affiliated with USAO, be you students, faculty, staff or alumni, I want to say thank you for participating in this study. We belong to a remarkable little community and each of you contributes to the quality of education we offer. For those of you considering USAO for you or your child’s undergraduate education, I will offer this little nugget: You can do better than USAO. But not this close to home, and for nowhere near this price.