Director of Institutional Research
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
local: (727) 864-7677
toll-free: (800) 456-9009
Jointly funded by the Pew Charitable Trust and The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, NSSE was developed according to the belief that traditionally-recognized indicators of a school's success did not give a complete picture of a school's overall effectiveness.
Popular rating systems such as U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges" ranks institutions largely based on the sheer size of their faculty, campus and their overall name recognition. While these indicators are useful for very broad descriptions of a school's positive attributes, NSSE takes this a step further and evaluates the extent to which these resources are used to establish a learning environment that contributes to student engagement.
More than 2.1 million first-year and senior students from 750 institutions in the United States and Canada were invited to participate in the 2011 NSSE. 416,000 students responded. By taking survey questions directly to the students, NSSE attempts to measure the presence and impact of a number of academic and environmental features that are directly linked to learning, personal development, academic persistence and graduation.
NSSE achieves this by evaluating schools in relation to five "Benchmarks of Effective Educational Practice." These benchmarks are: level of academic challenge, student interactions with faculty members, supportive campus environment, active and collaborative learning and enriching educational experiences.
The benchmarks are based on key questions from the NSSE survey that reflect the most common facets of the student experience. The questions range from those concerned with kinds of interactions with instructors, to those focused on, for example, the prevalence and frequency of service learning opportunities on a given campus.
Traditionally, the NSSE report provides each participating institution with comparison groups against which scores can be measured and evaluated. Institutions' scores are compared with the scores for all NSSE participants, in addition to the scores of peer-based subgroups so that scores can be measured more specifically between schools having similar characteristics (closer to an apples to apples approach).
For 2011, Eckerd's peer-based comparison groups were its Carnegie Peers. Carnegie Peers schools are grouped based on criteria generated by the Carnegie Foundation. Eckerd and its Carnegie peer schools are classified as "Baccalaureate Colleges Arts & Sciences."