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Second year students, end of second year, sophomores, follow-up survey of freshmen, GUR’s, general education requirements, course scheduling, class size, academic major, major declaration, general academic advising, advising, major advising, academic engagement, employment, educational expenses


The Spring 2012 Follow-Up Survey of Freshmen Who Entered Western in 2010 (2nd Year Survey) is part of a longitudinal effort to survey students with a goal to improve educational programs and provide self -assessment data. Together with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, the Office of Survey Research (OSR) designed this survey in an attempt to shed light on the efficacy and satisfaction with first year and GUR programs. This particular survey also received input from other campus offices which provides opportunities for these offices to address their specific needs. The 2nd Year Survey consists of a mixture of open ended, multiple choice and numerical response questions. This survey targeted native freshmen (including running start students) who entered Western in the Fall of 2010. These students were completing their second full year on campus at the time of the survey (Spring, 2012). As part of OSR’s efforts to paint a longitudinal portrait, these students were originally surveyed immediately prior to beginning their Western careers (Fall, 2010). A report of this initial survey may be found at: http://www.wwu. edu/osr/wels.shtml#Freshmen2010. Ultimately, these students will also be surveyed just prior to graduation and again two years after graduation. In order to solicit responses, OSR e-mailed students at their WWU e-mail address on April 17th. OSR sent a single e-mail reminder to internal email addresses on April 20th, and then sent the initial invitation and the reminder to external email addresses on April 23rd and 26th, respectively. OSR sent additional reminders to internal email addresses on April 30th and May 3rd, and to external addresses on May 7th and 10th. On May 16th, OSR began to phone call non-responding students to encourage participation. Data collection continued through June 8th with non-respondents receiving a total of three phone calls. Of the 2,182 students in the second year cohort, OSR received responses from 1,443, a response rate of 66.1%. In addition to the contributions of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, a number of other campus offices contributed to the 2nd Year Survey. Among these were the Academic Advising Center, the Division of Enrollment and Student Services, and University Residences. Because of the large number of questions these offices submitted, OSR assigned a number of questions to be randomly skipped by students. In effect, this random skipping shortened the time it took for any individual to complete the survey while still providing for each question enough responses for statistical analysis. For each question, this report notes when and to what extent this randomization occurs. As with any survey, readers should be concerned about sample selection bias; that is bias which occurs because survey respondents are not a random selection from a population of survey recipients. While sample selection bias for the 2nd Year Survey is mitigated through proper survey techniques and a high response rate, its presence should be considered when evaluating data. Section A of this document reports basic demographic and academic statistics for all students who responded to the survey and compares them to non-respondents. Overall, Section A demonstrates that respondents and non-respondents were similar in many respects including age, Runningstart status, residency, cumulative WWU credits earned, and peak credits attempted during the quarter the survey was administered. Respondents were more likely to be women (64.4% of respondents were women versus 48.8% of non-respondents), averaged higher admissions indices (59.0 v. 54.8), earned slightly better WWU cumulative GPAs (3.03 v. 2.90), and were more likely to live in campus housing when the survey was administered (32.2% v. 23.0%). In addition to Section A, this report contains eight sections each focusing on an aspect of student life at Western. While we leave it to the reader to decide what is informative or striking in this report, here we undertake to highlight findings which the wider campus may find interesting. Eighty-seven percent of students claimed to be “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their Western experience, a number similar to prior years. Interestingly, 65% of students claimed that they were “very unlikely” to leave Western prior to graduation, an increase over the prior year of five percentage points. Both of these statistics are lower than the second year students replying to the 2010 survey when 91% were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their campus experiences and 66% were very unlikely to leave. In order to gauge the difficulty of registering for courses, students were asked how many classes which they wanted to take in the spring quarter were full. 64% of respondents were unable to take at least one class because it was full. Of students who had yet to declare a major, 62% were certain of what their major would be and a further 30% had “some idea” of what they would study. When asked what delayed their major declaration, students most frequently responded that they needed more courses in order to declare or they were not sure about which major to declare. Very few students cited inadequate academic advising as causing their delay. When asked about General Education courses (Section C), one-half of students replied that GURs were about a difficult as expected with equal numbers of students claiming they were easier or harder than expected. Sadly, only 8% of students strongly agreed that “Taking GUR courses gives me useful skills” and 19% strongly agreed that “completing courses in a broad range of disciplines is something I would choose to do myself even if it were not required.” About half of respondents demonstrated a positive level of satisfaction with the size and structure of GUR courses and 58% of students were positively satisfied with the quality of instruction in their GUR courses; a number slightly higher than the prior year. Over the entire academic year, 36% of students claim they did not write a single paper longer than 5 pages and 56% claimed to write between one and four such papers. This lack of writing experience may explain why only 15% of students are “very satisfied” with the writing skills they have developed. Of all respondents, 41% did not work for pay during the quarter; the average hours worked per week of all students was 8.4 hours, up from 6.9 the year before. Fifty-seven percent of respondents claimed that they or someone else on their behalf has borrowed money to fund their education. Of those that have borrowed, the average education debt to date was $16,583 an increase of 10.2% over the respondents from the prior year. Of this amount, respondents averaged $488 in education-related credit card debt. Three-fifths of students expect to borrow more to complete their Western education. Three features of the 2nd Year Survey are worth mentioning. First, this is part of a longitudinal cohort which began with an OSR baseline survey prior to the beginning of the freshmen year. OSR is happy to package this data and share it with interested researchers. Secondly, each respondent in the 2nd Year Survey is tracked with a unique tracking number which OSR can match with university records. This ability profoundly opens the door for research in issues which impact students and the university. OSR will happily provide such data to researchers, departments, and offices upon request. Finally, as previously mentioned, 2nd Year Surveys were also given in 2010 and 2011 which provides the opportunity to track changes in student responses over time. Information from the prior surveys may be found on OSR’s website.




Digital object produced by Office of Survey Research, Western Washington University, and made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Western Washington University--Freshmen--Longitudinal studies; Western Washington University--Students--Longitudinal studies

Title of Series

Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Survey Research) ; 2012-04






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