Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 81: Elon College “A Hidden Jewel,” According to Study

Elon College “A Hidden Jewel,” According to Study

A new survey designed to assess institutional quality of over 250 four-year colleges and universities has identified North Carolina’s Elon College as a school demonstrating high student engagement. The National Survey of Student Engagement, sponsored by the Indiana University-based Pew Charitable Trusts, examines the level of student engagement by assessing students’ responses to 40 questions. The questions are clustered into five categories: level of academic challenge, the amount of active and collaborative learning, student interaction with faculty members, access to outside learning opportunities like internships and study-broad programs, and level of campus support. Elon College, Beloit College, Centre College, and Sweet Briar College were the only four schools that scored in the top 20 percent in all five benchmark categories for both freshmen and seniors. In a November 17 article about the survey, The Chronicle of Higher Education spotlights Elon’s success. The college features a variety of programs that helped it score well in the five categories. Students in the school’s general studies program are required to participate in one of five outside learning programs. In 1994, the college restructured its curriculum to make more time for collaborative learning. Elon’s success is in keeping with the survey’s results from other small, liberal arts colleges. On a whole, students at small colleges and liberal-arts colleges come out ahead in the five categories. In general, a higher level of student engagement and collaborative learning exist at small liberal-arts colleges. Such colleges tend also to be more demanding, requiring more writing and analytical thinking. The study contained other interesting results that may be used to assess the effectiveness of higher education across institutions. Most colleges struggled with low levels of student interaction with faculty members. Such interaction was least common at doctorate-granting institutions, where 53 percent of freshmen and 35 percent of seniors “never” discussed ideas outside the classroom and 79 percent of freshmen reported never working with a faculty member in a non-academic setting. For more on the N.C.C.S. survey or to view survey results, visit the Chronicle.

Voters Approve UNC Bonds

As North Carolinians await the outcome of the Presidential election, those lobbying for $3.1 billion in bonds for state colleges and universities can celebrate one certain victory. The largest bond in state history won overwhelming support from voters on November 7, thanks to bipartisan support, a $3 million pro-bond campaign, the help of N.C. Community College system, and the endorsement of several high profile leaders. All one hundred counties in North Carolina approved the bonds. Eighteen counties approved the bonds by more than 80 percent. Fifty-seven approved them by more than 70 percent and 25 counties by more than 60 percent. Community College President Martin Lancaster credited passage of the bonds to a unified campaign. “Our Presidents and Chancellors; their faculties, staffs, students and alumni; and our supporters in business and industry worked tirelessly to educate the voters on our needs and how these funds will be used,” Lancaster said in a released statement. Pope Center Direct George Leef continued to express doubt over the long-run benefits of adopting the bond plan. “Passing the bond and putting billions into the state’s higher education system probably slams the door on any changes in the system that would reduce its heavy cost to taxpayers, such as a serious tuition increase,” he said.