Survey assesses students’ public university experiences

AddThis

Students will have the opportunity to share a variety of information in an effort to improve the undergraduate experience in a survey that opened Tuesday. The Student Experience at the Research University survey, which UT calls the Ultimate Student Survey, takes about 20 minutes to complete and asks for information on topics such as financial aid, campus diversity and financial and personal characteristics. It cost UT $18,000 to participate in the survey. “It turns out to be a much more valid comparison, to say compare civil engineer majors from one university to other civil engineer majors at another university,” said Steve Chapman, director of the survey project at the University of California, Berkeley. “It builds the ability to look at issues in their real complexity.” The survey does not sample a percentage of undergraduates. Instead, the University encourages everyone to weigh in, with options for open-ended responses. “The theory is students at large institutions in different colleges are having different experiences [than other students in other colleges in the same university],” said Gale Stuart, a director at UT’s student affairs office. “If we don’t ask everyone, we might miss smaller sections of populations.” This is the second year UT will participate in the survey. Last year, only 15 percent of students finished the entire survey. Stuart said she hopes to see increased participation this year. The survey will be available until March 18. The Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC-Berkeley created and has been implementing the survey for more than 10 years. Students from public research flagship universities, such as the University of Florida, the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota are eligible to take the survey. More than 130,000 students respond each year from across the nation. This year’s survey results may influence policies such as budgeting, identifying college readiness and different ways to inform admissions, said Harrison Keller, vice provost for UT’s Higher Education Policy and Research. “The survey gives us rich information to get a better sense of where students feel prepared and where they get useful support,” Keller said. Four UT students who participate will receive $250 toward textbooks. Other prizes include an Apple iPad and tickets to UT athletic events. Tim Gabriel, mechanical engineering junior, said a progress bar at the bottom of each page would be helpful so he could know how much of the survey he had left. “Sometimes surveys are repetitive, but I liked that this one wasn’t,” he said. “It covered a broad base and it was nicely categorized.”