NSSE Overview

NSSE 2020 Overview

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE, pronounced “nessie”) collects information from first-year and senior students about the characteristics and quality of their undergraduate experience. Since the inception of the survey, more than 1,600 bachelor’s-granting colleges and universities in the United States and Canada have used it to measure the extent to which students engage in effective educational practices that are empirically linked with learning, personal development, and other desired outcomes such as persistence, satisfaction, and graduation.

NSSE data are used by faculty, administrators, researchers, and others for institutional improvement, public reporting, and related purposes. Launched in 2000 with the support of a generous grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, NSSE has been fully sustained through institutional participation fees since 2002. This document provides an overview of NSSE 2020, including administration details, response rates, participating institutions, and respondent characteristics.

A Pandemic Strikes

The coronavirus pandemic had a profound impact on almost all colleges and universities across North America. Despite the tumult it caused, the vast majority of schools participating in NSSE 2020 successfully collected data to improve undergraduate education. An in-depth analysis of NSSE data revealed survey response behavior and results to be relatively unaffected. Ultimately, only nineteen institutions needed to withdraw and four more eventually decided to exclude post-disruption survey respondents from their reports. Visit our website to learn more about how the NSSE 2020 administration unfolded, actions taken by NSSE to minimize the pandemic’s impact, and the various analyses completed to ensure data quality.

Canadian Respondent Profile

Canadian respondents profiled here include 134,288 students (59% first-year, 41% senior) from 63 institutions from ten provinces, including 24 institutions in Ontario; 12 in Quebec; and under 10 from each of the remaining eight provinces. Female students and full-time students accounted for about 65% and 89% of Canadian respondents, respectively. The average response rate for Canadian NSSE 2020 institutions was 37%, with the highest response rate being 74%. Over 90% achieved a response rate of 25% or higher.

About 16% of Canadian respondents were at least 24 years old. The majority of students providing ethnocultural information identified as Caucasian or White (49%), while 10% were multiracial, 10% Chinese, 10% South Asian, 5% Black, and less than 4% from each of nine other categories.

Looking for a bit of NSSE history?

See all historical NSSE Overviews dating back to 2000 in PDF format.

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