2002 FOCUS TOPIC
STUDENT PERCEPTIONS OF CAMPUS CLIMATE
Each year, this report focuses on topics pertaining to student and staff representation. The topics are selected in consultation with public colleges and universities who include information about each topic in their annual reports to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
This year a single focus topic is presented on student perceptions of campus climate. Public universities and colleges were asked to assess undergraduate student perceptions of the following eight components – institutional attractiveness, faculty/classroom behavior, student needs and concerns, institutional responsiveness, student racial climate, institutional racial climate, student life, and racial relations. These eight components are part of a student life survey developed at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Because of the basic differences in campus life between public universities and public community colleges, each is presented separately. The report for the public community colleges was developed by staff from the Illinois Community College Board.
For this report, institutions had the flexibility to determine how best to assess student perceptions of campus climate. Public universities used a combination of written surveys, telephone surveys, and focus groups to assess student opinion. Written surveys included those developed in-house and national surveys such as the College Student Survey, Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshman Survey, and the Student Satisfaction Survey.
Undergraduate students from underrepresented groups were the principal population of interest for the assessment, and each institution took significant steps to target surveys to these student groups. For instance, one campus assessed the opinions of over 1,000 students from underrepresented groups using a combination of surveys and focus groups. Another campus, using a combination of mail surveys and surveys of students in Black Studies courses, had over 400 responses from students from underrepresented groups. As a result of these efforts, the overwhelming majority of student opinions presented below are those of students from underrepresented groups.
Because of the variation in depth of coverage, sufficient statewide data were collected on six of the eight components – institutional attractiveness, faculty and classroom behavior, student needs and concerns, student racial climate, institutional racial climate, and racial relations. A brief synopsis of the results for each of these six components is presented below.
Institutional attractiveness addressed two concerns – factors influencing student decisions to attend a particular public university and factors influencing decisions to remain at that institution. By an overwhelming margin, four factors emerged as having the most influence in selecting an institution: 1) affordability (tuition and fees), 2) availability of financial aid, 3) academic reputation, and 4) the presence of a specific academic program. Other, less influential, factors were proximity to home and ability to get a good job after graduation.
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