State and Multi-Campus Systems

Considerations for System Participation

Some systems actively coordinate NSSE registration and fund their institutions' participation while others simply encourage participation and provide support in terms of supplementary data analysis at the system office. Several approaches illustrate what systems can do:

  • Encourage individual campus participation. The system encourages individual campus participation, but there is no intent to coordinate participation years or to provide system-level funding. Interested schools register and pay for their own administration—and receive their own data. No system report is produced.
  • Facilitate system institution involvement. The system facilitates participation and may underwrite some or all survey costs as well as identify someone to coordinate campus participation. A system report can be produced with agreement from participating institutions.
  • Coordinate system administration. The system coordinates NSSE registration activities, covering or not covering campus participation costs; conducts additional data analyses across system schools; assists in the promotion and use of results; coordinates workshops and sessions on using data; and facilitates cross-institution communications. A system report can be produced with agreement from participating institutions.

  • Compare student responses to survey questions across system campuses and use the data for improvement initiatives, mission differentiation and growth, longitudinal evaluation, and system discussions about assessment.
  • Merge NSSE data with other institutional or system data.
  • In system-wide studies, include multi-campus concerns such as retention, transfer student engagement, degree attainment, and differences in engagement among first-generation or racial/ethnic groups.
  • Explore engagement patterns by various student or institution characteristics or track year-to-year student engagement across campuses.
  • Append to the NSSE core survey a short set of additional questions (that take about 3 minutes to complete) probing a topic of interest to the system and its institutions (additional fee).
  • Request customized analyses such as campus comparisons at the school/college or major level, or system-wide comparisons by gender or race (additional fee).

System support and coordination requires the designation of a System Coordinator. Typically, this is an individual from the system office or from one of the institutions in the system. System Coordinators may be from institutions not currently participating in the survey. The coordinator is responsible for:

  • Determining the consortium/system purpose
  • Recruiting participating institutions as necessary
  • Coordinating communication among the participating institutions
  • Communicating with the NSSE System and Consortium Manager as needed
  • Coordinating any additional data sharing agreements between institutions and NSSE
  • Collaborating with consortium participants to develop the additional questions to be appended to the core survey, submitting the questions prior to the deadline, and responding to suggestions for question revisions from NSSE research analysts

Participating institutions receive detailed analyses in the NSSE Institutional Report Package. Systems that coordinate participation via a NSSE consortium receive a summary report at no additional cost. This summary report can either display institutional results individually or in the aggregate. In the case of the former, data sharing agreements signed by campus contacts from each participating institution must be submitted to NSSE.

NSSE staff members work with systems and individual institutions to offer the following services:

  1. In-person and web-based workshops on topics such as using NSSE data for assessment, accreditation, and system-wide quality improvement plans
  2. Facilitation of campus symposia, faculty development workshops, and governing board retreats
  3. Comprehensive or targeted campus audits to identify system-wide and institution-level strengths and weaknesses
  4. Consultations to develop and help use NSSE data in improvement initiatives and to assist with accreditation or other system and campus priorities
  5. Targeted research and evaluation of curricular innovation and student success initiatives as well as specific system and campus needs

For additional information, contact Jillian Kinzie at

NSSE encourages public reporting of student engagement results in ways that increase understanding of college quality and support institutional improvement efforts. Per the terms of the NSSE Participation Agreement, NSSE results specific to an institution are not made public except by agreement between NSSE and the institution. Colleges and universities that register to participate in NSSE as a system may agree to share their results with other system institutions, but system and institutional data will not be shared publicly by NSSE without consent from all participating institutions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Only if your system is also appending additional questions to the NSSE survey, in which case consortium fees apply.

Systems using NSSE for the first time may want to encourage their campuses to use the survey for several consecutive years to establish stable baseline or benchmark data. Thereafter, under ordinary conditions, participation every two or three years may be sufficient.

State system reports are prepared after individual campuses receive their Institutional Report and are typically delivered in October.

Institutional Report packages are sent to the NSSE contacts at individual institutions in early August. A copy of each individual Institutional Report and a system report is provided in October to the designated system coordinator.

Systems may participate in the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) and/or the Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE). Used together, NSSE, FSSE, and BCSSE help systems and institutions better understand the factors that influence student and faculty engagement, take stock of their performance in meeting accountability measures, and act on what they learn.

Examples of How Systems Put NSSE Data to Use

NSSE and the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) were used to measure progress on question four of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education's Public Agenda—on preparation of college graduates for life and work in Kentucky. NSSE and CCSSE results have been used to support institutional improvement and accountability among the council's institutions. The council has also used NSSE to assess the civic engagement of undergraduate students in Kentucky's public four-year institutions.

Data obtained from five NSSE administrations beginning in 2002 revealed upward trends in student engagement for all six public universities in the South Dakota system. Longitudinal analyses showed strong links between student performance and student-faculty interaction. In addition, the level of student effort—inside and outside the classroom—was positively correlated with outcomes in areas such as critical thinking, academic performance, and persistence.

The South Dakota Board of Regents noted that this improvement may have been influenced by two crucial policy issues: (1) the expansion of the universities' research capacity to foster more collaboration on projects between students and faculty and (2) a salary competitiveness plan that helps South Dakota system institutions retain high quality faculty.

The Tennessee Board of Regents used their 2013–2014 NSSE results to disaggregate the traditional and adult/ nontraditional student groups in the Tennessee Publics System. Adult/nontraditional students, defined as students age 25 or older, are a growing student population at Tennessee Publics, as at many colleges and universities.

The Board of Regents used this NSSE data to "provide institutional knowledge of what resources, strategies and policies may influence the overall rate of adult/ nontraditional student engagement." NSSE results for adult/nontraditional engagement in the High-Impact Practices and the 10 Engagement Indicators were used to supplement other data sources in the board's effort to develop recommendations and next steps to enhance support for adult/nontraditional students.

The University of Wisconsin System annually publishes detailed accountability reports reflecting the system's "longstanding commitment to demonstrating its accountability to the citizens of Wisconsin" and covering "a broad spectrum of higher education performance measures that address diverse constituent interests."

Knowledge Powers Wisconsin's Future: UW System's Annual Accountability Report presents the measurement of university performance within UW System's Strategic Framework, consisting of seven core strategies: Prepare Students, Stronger Workforce, Stronger Businesses, Stronger Communities, Resources, Operational Excellence, and Collaborations. Updates on system progress toward these accountability goals—broken down into specific subgoals, or benchmarks—are provided in summary charts that state the targeted outcome for each subgoal along with the current status of the system's progress toward that outcome.

For the Critical Thinking subgoal, "Meet or exceed national benchmarks in fostering the development of critical thinking skills," NSSE scores of UW seniors are compared to overall NSSE cohort results on survey items related to critical thinking skills and on items related to high-impact practices such as learning communities, service-learning, research with faculty, internships, and senior capstone experiences.

NSSE results are also used to report on the measures of Student Experiences and Perceptions, including Group Learning Experiences, Active Learning Experiences, Institutional Commitment to Student Learning and Success, Student Satisfaction, Student Interaction with Campus Faculty and Staff, and Experiences with Diverse Groups of People and Ideas.

Past System Participants

Bowie State University
City University of New York
Concordia Universities
Connecticut State Universities
Indiana University
Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
Minnesota State College and University
New Jersey Public Universities
North Dakota University System
Ohio State University System
Ontario Universities
Ontario Universities 2
Penn State System
Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
South Dakota Public Universities
State University of New York
Tennessee Publics
Texas A&M System
Texas Six
University of Hawaii
University of Louisiana System
University of Maine System
University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts
University of Missouri
University of North Carolina
University of Texas
University System of Georgia
University of Wisconsin Comprehensives

Evidence-Based Improvement in Higher Education

Center for Postsecondary Research
Indiana University School of Education
201 N. Rose Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405-1006
Phone: 812.856.5824