Vol.5, No. 2 Published by Assessment Resource Office, ENMU Date: 2-12-97
The Cooperative Institute Research Program (CIRP) at the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI at UCLA) has again issued their press release announcing the results of the 1996 Freshmen Survey. You may have seen this in a recent edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education or in other news sources.
CIRP is a national longitudinal study of the American higher education system. Established in 1966 at the American Council on Education, the CIRP is now the nation's largest and longest empirical study of higher education, involving data on some 1,400 institutions, over 8 million students, and more than 100,000 faculty.
The core of the CIRP is the annual survey of entering freshmen. Each year some 600 two-year colleges, four-year colleges, and universities administer a survey developed at HERI to each new freshman during orientation or registration. The survey covers a wide range of student characteristics: parental income and education, ethnicity, and other demographic items; financial aid; secondary school achievement and activities; educational and career plans; and values, attitudes, beliefs and self-concept. The results from these surveys continue to provide a comprehensive portrait of both the changing character of entering freshmen and American society at large. The annual survey results are watched closely in the higher education community and by state and federal policy makers; the findings also receive widespread attention in the national press.
The CIRP Freshmen Survey has been administered at Eastern for 10 years to more than 5,000 students at Eastern New Mexico University.
In the space below, you will be able to identify the information from the HERI press release from information about the 1996 freshmen class here at Eastern. The information that is added by me about Eastern students will appear in italics.
Freshmen entering U.S. colleges and universities this past fall are the most community-service-minded class in the 31-year history of UCLA's nationwide survey of college freshmen. The survey of more than 250,000 freshmen shows record numbers of students doing volunteer work and record numbers giving of their time at least an hour each week.
The fall 1996 survey, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, shows that 71.8 percent of the freshmen questioned did volunteer work during the past year. That compares to 70.3 percent in 1995 and a low of 62 percent in 1989. A record-high 38.4 percent of this year's freshmen spend one or more hours per week volunteering, compared to 37.2 percent in 1995 and 26.6 percent when this question was asked in 1987.
At Eastern, 54.7 percent of first-time freshmen reported spending some time each week in volunteer activities. This compares to 49.0 percent last year and a low of 40 percent in 1988. Of Eastern students, 28.3 percent reported spending 1 or more hours per week volunteering.
"Local and national efforts to encourage community service involvement appear to have had an effect as young people today are voluntarily taking action to help others in their communities," said Linda J. Sax, assistant professor of education at UCLA and associate director of the survey. "These trends are especially encouraging given recent studies showing that volunteer work has positive effects on students' personal and academic development."
Student concerns about their financial situations are growing.
In a climate of growing uncertainty about the availability of student aid, a record 33.1 percent of freshmen questioned cite financial assistance as a "very important" reason for selecting their freshman college, compared to 31.6 percent in 1995 and a low of 13.6 percent in 1976.
Only possible results have been released to Eastern to date by HERI, but 54 percent of students indicated that financial assistance was important or very important in choosing to attend Eastern. Financial assistance has been among the top five reasons that students choose Eastern for the past 10 years.
The percentage of freshmen choosing their college because it has low tuition rose sharply to its second highest point ever, 31.3 percent compared to 27.7 percent in 1995.
Low tuition is another historical reason why students choose to attend Eastern and in 1996 45.7 percent of the freshmen class indicated choosing Eastern, in part, because of low tuition.
"These findings suggest that the failure of federal and state financial aid to keep up with the cost of college is changing the way students pick their colleges," said Alexander W. Astin, UCLA professor of education and director of the survey. "Rather than picking the college that offers the most appropriate program, more students will be making choices on the basis of low cost and availability of financial aid."
Two-thirds of freshmen are at least somewhat concerned they won't have enough funds to complete college. Increasing numbers expect to work while going to school to help pay college expenses (41.1 percent, compared to 39.5 percent in 1995 and a low of 34.7 percent in 1989). The percentage of freshmen expecting to work full time while in school rose to 6.4 percent from 5.5 percent in 1995 and a low of 3.2 percent when this question first was asked in 1982.
Seventy-one percent of Eastern students are at least somewhat concerned they won't have enough funds to complete college. 35.4 percent of students indicate they plan to get a job to pay expenses while in college, and 9 percent of students indicate they plan to work full-time while attending Eastern.
"Grade Inflation" continues.
Freshmen in fall 1996 report higher grades than in any previous freshman survey. A record 31.5 percent report earning "A" averages in high school compared to 28.1 percent in 1995 and a low of 12.5 percent in 1969. Conversely, the number reporting "C" averages or lower dropped to an all-time low of 14.6 percent from 15.5 percent in 1995 and a high of 32.5 percent in 1969.
Among Eastern's first-time freshmen, 18.9 percent reported earning an "A" average, compared to 27.3 percent in 1995 and a low of 20 percent in 1987. Conversely, 27.6 percent of students reported earning a "C" average or lower.
Students also are taking more college preparatory courses than ever before. Record numbers of students report taking at least three years of math (95.1 percent), two years of foreign language (84.4 percent), and two years of biological science (41.3 percent). Increasing numbers of students also are taking at least two years of physical science (52.6 percent) and a half year of computer science (58.3 percent).
At Eastern, 95.9 percent of first-time freshmen reported taking at least three years of math, 57.5 percent completed two years of foreign language, 34.9 percent completed two years of biological science, 34.1 percent completed two years of physical science, and 52 percent completed a half year of computer science.
"These survey results appear to reflect reaction to an increasing societal pressure to go to college in order to get ahead in life," Sax said. "Students are feeling pressured to take more college preparatory courses, and high school teachers are feeling pressured to be more lenient in their grading."
Despite a more challenging class load, students continue to report a high degree of academic disengagement, with the percentage of freshmen reporting being frequently "bored in class" reaching an all-time high of 35.6 percent (up from 33.9 percent in 1995). A record number also report they occasionally "overslept and missed class or (an) appointment" and the percentage of freshmen reporting spending six or more hours per week studying remains low at 35.7 percent, compared to a high of 43.7 percent in 1987.
Of Eastern's CIRP participants, 31.6 percent reported that they "felt bored in class", compared to 24.9 percent in 1995. 35.2 percent of Eastern students reported that they occasionally "overslept and missed classes or an appointment," and the percentage of freshmen reporting spending six or more hours per week studying remained low at 17.5 percent.
Self-confidence and aspirations are on the rise.
Students are thinking more highly than ever of themselves and their capabilities, but researchers caution that this growing self-confidence may not always be substantively based. When asked to compare themselves to the average person their age, more freshmen than ever rate themselves "above average" or in the "highest 10 percent" on academic, writing, public speaking, leadership and artistic abilities. Also on the rise are freshman perceptions of their mathematical ability, intellectual self-confidence and social self-confidence.
"This improved self-concept may be more the result of current self-esteem-raising programs in kindergarten through 12th grade than actual gains in ability," Sax noted. "Nevertheless, healthier self-confidence levels--no matter the source--contribute to success in college."
Improved self-concepts parallel students' growing optimism about their academic future. More freshmen than ever estimate that there is a "very good chance" they will "make at least a 'B' average" in college, and record numbers expect to "be elected to an academic honor society." Despite falling retention rates nationwide, a record 66.3 percent of this year's freshmen plan to earn graduate or advanced professional degrees, including an all-time high 38.9 percent aspiring to master's degrees and a record 15.1 percent planning to pursue Ph.D. or Ed.D. degrees.
Among Eastern's class of 2000 (19 freshmen matriculates of 1996), 50 percent responded there was a very good chance that "they would make at least a 'B' average" in college, and only about 5 percent reported that they expected to be elected to an honor society. 36.3 percent of Eastern's CIRP respondents indicated they plan to earn a master's, 14.2 percent a Ph.D. or Ed.D., 5.8 percent a medical or health degree (MD, DO, DDS, DVM), and 1.2 percent a law degree.
At the risk of bursting bubbles, survey director Astin noted that "it seems reasonable to assume that these rising academic expectations and educational aspirations are at least partially attributable to 'grade inflation' in high school. Greater 'success' in high school may be leading more students to have high expectations for college and beyond."
Interest in teaching careers is on the rise; interest in business and law is dropping.
Interest in elementary and secondary teaching careers rose again to its highest point in 23 years. Overall, 10.2 percent of freshmen report an interest in teaching, including 13.7 percent of female students and 5.7 percent of men. Medical careers also remain popular, with 6.4 percent of freshmen (6.9 percent of women and 5.8 percent of men) planning to become doctors. Interest in business careers hit a 20-year low at 14 percent, and the number of freshmen planning to become lawyers hit a record low of 3.3 percent.
15.4 percent of Eastern students indicated they intend to work in elementary or secondary education, including 21.4 percent of women and 8 percent of men. 3.6 percent of Eastern students (3.8 percent of women, 3.4 percent of men) indicated they plan on becoming a doctor. Ten percent of Eastern students indicated that they were interested in a business career, while only .8 percent expressed an interest in becoming an attorney.
Social attitudes are changing.
Freshman social attitudes show a continued decline in support of sexual and reproductive freedom. Support for keeping abortion legal declined for the fourth straight year to 56.3 percent, compared to a high of 64.9 percent in 1990 and a low of 53.3 percent in 1979. In a similar trend, support has reached an all-time low for the notion that "if two people like each other, it's all right for them to have sex even if they've known each other for a very short time." This year, 41.6 percent agreed with that statement, compared to 42.7 percent in 1995 and a high of 51.9 percent in 1987.
"This latter finding reflects college students' changing attitudes towards sex in an era of increasing consciousness about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases," Sax said.
Among Eastern participants, 48 percent indicated that "abortion should be legal." Eastern students likewise agreed in record numbers with the statement in 1990 (59.2 percent as compared to a low of 46.1 percent of respondents in 1988). 40.1 percent of Eastern students (55.7 percent of men and 27.1 percent of women) reported they agree somewhat or agree strongly that "sex is ok if people like each other even if they've known each other for a very short time." In 1995, 42.5 percent of the respondents agreed with this statement. The record number of agreement was in 1988 (54.4 percent compared to a low of 38.7 percent in 1994).
The CIRP Freshmen Survey represents a significant commitment of time and money to learn about our freshmen students. In the last year, a similar survey was conducted of the faculty, and we have recently begun to administer the College Student Survey (CSS) to graduating seniors. When the information from the CSS on graduating seniors can be compared to our freshmen reports, then a rich understanding of how students learn and grow here at Eastern may result.
In two weeks, the next edition of the Datawave will report an itemized summary of the questions asked on the CIRP freshmen survey. Members of the Eastern community are encouraged to request information to promote their planning and services. For more information, feel free to call on Dr. Alec Testa at extension 4313, or through email at Alec.Testa@enmu.edu.
Addendum to Datawave issue 5-1: The chart pictured for question 14 in Datawave issue 5-1 was incorrect. The question and the correct chart are shown below.
|14. Non-minority students interact differently with minority students than they do with other non-minority students at ENMU.
|The Datawave is published by the Assessment Resource Office at Eastern New Mexico University, Alec M. Testa, Coordinator.|
Editor: Alec M. Testa