Survey Data in Action
Think Student Surveys are Pointless? Think Again!
By Erin Taylor
If Fall quarter was your first here at Evergreen, you are probably familiar with the New Student Survey. The New Student Survey (NSS) is administered every two years by Evergreen’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment and inquires about a wide range of subjects such as students’ after-college goals, confidence levels in their own ability to succeed in various arenas, and demographic information. Participants in the survey also had the option to write in comments and provide additional information.
The NSS was sent out via email to all first time, first year students who were registered for Fall 2016 classes as well as to students who transferred to Evergreen from another institution. A total of 1,239 individuals were contacted, including students intending to study at other TESC campuses (Grays Harbor, Tacoma, Reservation-based). Out of the 1,239 contacted, 744 students responded, a response rate of 60 percent.
But don’t worry, intrepid reader! I’m not here to bore you with a breakdown of all of the statistics of the New Student Survey– though if you are interested in seeing what the Fall 2016 new student population looks like, you can find the results of the 2016 NSS, as well as previous years’ results at: www.evergreen.edu/institutionalresearch/newstudentsurvey. What I am here to converse with you about is how all that survey data is used.
The data acquired from these surveys is not just utilized to create pretty graphs to be published on Evergreen’s website. The answers you provide are actually put to use by various offices within Evergreen to better shape the school to fit the needs of its students (i.e., you). It’s true! For example, students were asked to rate their level of confidence in a series of areas. The two areas that had the overall lowest level of confidence reported by both first time, first year, and transfer students were “have the funding to complete your studies at Evergreen”, and “will be able to manage any debt that you incur in completing your education at Evergreen”. Simply put, out of the 13 criteria listed, new students had the lowest confidence and the highest anxiety regarding funding their education and the debt they will accrue while in college. This anxiety over finances and debt has been noted and was heard by both staff and faculty here at Evergreen, and many have been actively working on strategies to help support students and their ability to manage their finances and debt. Staff are also determinedly working toward acquiring more scholarship funds for students at Evergreen to help alleviate student debt and the accompanying financial anxiety that many experience.
Data from the survey is also used to shape the curriculum based on student interest. The Standing Curriculum Committee uses the NSS to “inform a student-based curriculum”, according to committee member Amadou Ba. Additionally, students indicated they would like more options in shaping their education and would like more opportunity to have the ability to fine-tune their college trajectory. Based on this information, faculty are working on providing more 12-credit options within their offered programs, which will allow students the potential to register for additional 4-credit, focused courses on top of an encompassing, interdisciplinary 12-credit program.
So what’s the takeaway of all of this? Participate in the surveys! The more students who participate, the better. Taking the surveys administered by Evergreen’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment is one of many ways you can make your voice heard here on campus and can make your college experience an excellent one. If you missed your chance to take the New Student Survey back in the Fall, don’t fret– a companion survey, the Evergreen Student Experience Survey is happening now for a random selection of students. As an added bonus, participants are entered in a contest to win a $200 gift certificate to the Greener Bookstore. Let me repeat, you can win prizes just by answering survey questions.
If you are one of the lucky selected participants, please take the time to take the survey. Your answers are invaluable, and the data collected helps make Evergreen the unique and student-central institution that we love.