Creating conditions at institutions to foster student success has never been more important. Working toward this goal, many institutions have used BCSSE data to improve first-year student success on their campuses. In addition, institutions that participate in both the BCSSE and NSSE surveys in the same academic year receive a BCSSE-NSSE Combined Report and data file providing in-depth cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of their first-year students' experiences.
Over the years, we have catalogued many examples of campuses using BCSSE, NSSE, and FSSE data. Visit the How Institutions Use Our Data page to learn more.
The University of South Florida (USF) began administering BCSSE to its first-year students in 2014, and each year reassesses how BCSSE data can be utilized to support student success across the university. Most notably, USF uses the data to deploy predictive analytics, to inform support personnel about the students they serve, and to identify students for early intervention. For several years, USF has used its own persistence model to identify 10% to 12% of new first-year students at risk of not persisting to the second year of college. Developed at USF, this statistical model is based on pre-matriculation data taken directly from the university’s student information system.
Incorporating BCSSE data into this persistence model, in fall 2016, not only strengthened it as a statistical tool but also revealed which BCSSE variables were significant predictors of first-year persistence, making it possible for USF to identify students for early intervention based on their individual BCSSE responses.
Using pre-matriculation characteristics to predict the risk of attrition has allowed support offices to start intervention efforts in the first few weeks of classes, when new students are in the early stages of connecting with the institution. The lists of at-risk students are shared with academic advisors, academic foundations (first-year seminar) instructors, and housing and residential education personnel, with the expectation that these entities will provide the students targeted interventions. After reviewing their students’ BCSSE Advising Reports, the academic advisors, first-year seminar instructors, and housing and residential education personnel conduct intentional conversations informed by the reports’ individual student responses.
USF’s New Student Connections (NSC) office has been particularly effective in their use of specific BCSSE responses for targeted and proactive outreach. In fall 2016, NSC reached out to students whose BCSSE responses indicated they did not intend to or were uncertain whether they would graduate from USF, with a focus on those who also indicated they had no close friends at USF.
Because USF’s persistence model found these BCSSE items to be predictive, these 244 students were selected for priority outreach and received up to six outreach contacts (email, phone call, text) from Peer Advisor Leaders (PALs) who engaged the students in conversations about their adjustment to college life, their USF experience, any struggles they were encountering, questions they might have, and their engagement in campus life. Based on their responses, these students were encouraged to connect with a PAL for coaching to help them navigate any transition or barrier to their success at USF.
NSC tracked each outreach contact and shared results with appropriate campus partners and support offices. This effort paved the way for an expanded peer-coaching initiative.
Every year since its inauguration in 2007, the Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE) has been administered at Southern Connecticut State University during orientation, and the institution has been pushing the boundaries of how colleges and universities use BCSSE data. As part of the First-Year Experience (FYE) Program, all incoming students are enrolled in a seminar that promotes their academic habits of mind, research skills, and preparedness for more advanced coursework. This seminar extends students’ orientation into the future and guides them in developing action steps in the here-and-now to achieve their desired futures.
Prior to the first day of classes, the FYE seminar instructors receive a BCSSE Student Advising Report for each student, which provides individualized information regarding a student’s commitment to the institution, expected academic difficulty, and self-perception of academic preparation for college. When guiding faculty on how to use this information to gauge a student’s confidence and needs, the Office of Assessment and Planning emphasizes that, rather than spelling out a student’s destiny, BCSSE data provide a roadmap on how best to support the student during this crucial transition. At Southern Connecticut State University, the focus is on that which is amenable to change rather than unchangeable demographic characteristics and prior learning.
The Student Success Task Force, chaired by the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and the Vice President for Student Affairs, used BCSSE data along with other sources of data in predictive modeling to identify the most important predictors of student academic learning, persistence, and graduation outcomes. Of the information collected by BCSSE, the item “Do you expect to graduate from this institution?” was a significant predictor; not surprisingly, students who responded “Uncertain” were less likely to be retained compared with students who answered in the affirmative. Other important predictors included students’ expected difficulty with time management; preparedness to speak clearly and effectively; and frequency of talking with a counselor, teacher, or other staff member about university or career plans.
More than this, the results of the predictive models using BCSSE data indicated that student success is all about relationships. The Student Success Task Force’s recommendations led to the creation of the Academic Success Center and the modification of academic programs, policies, and instruction as part of a drive to advance a culture of student-centeredness at the university. Specifically to help students plan for the cost of education and manage their financial obligations, a new position was created: Coordinator of Student Financial Literacy and Advising.
BCSSE and NSSE data have been used at Southern Connecticut State University in numerous other ways as well. For example, using data from NSSE’s Academic Advising Topical Module (along with other sources of information) to identify issues with the campus’s advising practices, the institution implemented the Education Advisory Board’s Student Success Collaborative advising platform, and university staff continue to use data from the advising module to evaluate this initiative. Additionally, analysis of BCSSE and NSSE data trends conducted by the Office of Assessment and Planning underscored the importance of paying attention to the specific needs of students who are the first in their families to attend college.
One outcome from this analysis was the implementation of a special High-Impact Practice offering, First-Generation College Student Living and Learning Communities, whose students are enrolled together in focused FYE seminars and live together in dorms and with staff members who themselves had been first-generation college students. This program has had real success. First-generation students who participated in this High-Impact Practice had the highest score on the NSSE item measuring students’ overall evaluation of their entire educational experience at the institution, and they were almost 10% more likely than their nonparticipating counterparts to persist at the institution.
Southern Connecticut State University is currently considering the factors that promote and impede on-time graduation. The most important predictors of on-time graduation include the characteristics of the students’ incoming profile, the students’ goal-directed activities, their confidence that they would seek and identify additional resources to better understand course-related materials, and their expected difficulty in getting help if they are struggling with coursework. Results from BCSSE and NSSE can provide data illuminating these predictors.
Overall, BCSSE and NSSE results inform important conversations at Southern Connecticut State University about the most effective ways to promote students’ learning and development. Infographics depicting key survey findings and important predictors of student success are used to spark discussions during meetings. BCSSE and NSSE data highlight areas in which the university has scored higher than its peer institutions—particularly in the Discussions with Diverse Others and Student-Faculty Interaction Engagement Indicators—and the data also identify areas in need of improvement. BCSSE and NSSE results contribute to the university’s data-driven process of educational change and, in response, the university changes the way it works on behalf of students.
Auburn University has been using BCSSE data to predict students at risk of low first fall semester GPAs and dropout. Auburn employs an interactive tool that shows, along with other student characteristics, students' BCSSE results and predicted Fall I GPA and retention to the second year. The tool also can be used to manipulate student responses to BCSSE to better understand the effect of these responses on student outcomes—specifically, GPA and retention. Interestingly, students' confidence in their ability to study when there are other interesting things to do and to finish something they have started are positively associated with predicted GPA, while confidence in the ability to stay positive in the event of poor test performance is negatively associated with predicted GPA. The particular strength of Auburn's interactive tool is that it provides advisers with better understanding of specific triggers that put students at risk. With this understanding, advisers can contact at-risk students early in the fall semester and work individually with each of them to increase their odds of success.
Avila University puts its BCSSE data to good use in ways that reach across the university community. Academic advisors and instructors of the First-Year Seminar (FS 101) receive the BCSSE Student Advising Report and are encouraged to use it to gain insight into their students' preparations for and expectations of college. In one-on-one meetings with each first-year student, the FS 101 instructor reviews the report, discusses areas of concern and success, and provides the student with appropriate campus resources. Feedback regarding the usefulness of the report is solicited from advisors and instructors. Additionally, to increase campus wide understanding of the characteristics of Avila's first-year class, the Coordinator of Retention and the First-Year Experience presents to faculty and staff highlights of some of the most compelling and useful information in the BCSSE institutional report.
The staff at Montana State's Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success use their BCSSE Advising Reports to determine which first-year students are at risk for early departure. By coupling BCSSE data with the university's ChampChange program, Montana State has been successful in reaching its retention targets. How they achieved this success was presented at the2015 Annual Conference on the First-Year Experiencein Dallas. View the ChampChange website to learn more.
Salve Regina's first BCSSE administration, facilitated and implemented by the university's Center for Student Development, was for a cohort of entering students at their New Student Orientation in June prior to the 2013–2014 academic year. Since then, Salve Regina has found multiple productive uses for its BCSSE data. First, at the faculty assembly for the new academic year, Class deans have presented their cohort's profile based on the BCSSE institutional report. Second, BCSSE Student Advising Reports are shared among the director of academic advising and students' faculty advisors and also among the staff or faculty who teach the students' first-year transitions course and serve as their mentor/coach during the first semester of college. Third, under the direction of the Center for Student Development, the BCSSE data on "Expected Transition Difficulty"—particularly responses to "making new friends"—are used to help identify students who may need additional support and mentoring, whether through the First-Year Transitions course, the Seahawk to Seahawk Mentoring Program (Office of Multicultural Affairs), or other avenues of support for student engagement. Finally, the Office of Institutional Research has used BCSSE results to run regressions with retention data to inform the university's retention initiatives. Vist the Center for Student Development webpage to learn more.
Photo courtesy of Auburn University
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