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Students More Engaged at Supportive Colleges

Many colleges are being more intentional about engaging first-year students, and new research shows the efforts are paying off.

Results of the 2012 National Survey of Student Engagement , produced by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, were released Thursday. The survey, which has been conducted annually since 1999, includes responses from 285,000 students from participating colleges and universities.

At more than half of the 400 institutions, a multiyear analysis of the surveys found positive trends in freshman engagement. Just 8 percent experienced negative trends. Researchers expressed encouragement that change was possible on campuses, as improvements were seen across all institution types.

About 18 percent of freshmen were involved in learning communities, and 41 percent in service-learning, both of which are considered in the report to be "high-impact practices" that help with retention and academics.

High school engagement was positively related to first-year college engagement, but all students reported higher engagement when they felt the campus provided a supportive environment. Those findings come from the 2012 Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE), a companion survey of nearly 360,000 first-year students.

On average, first-year students reported spending about 15 hours a week preparing for class. Those with grades of A or A-minus studied about four hours more than those receiving marks of C-plus or lower. How much students studied depended on their major, with those in engineering hitting the books the most.

This year's survey reflects a growing concern over finances. About 60 percent of freshmen said they were worried about having enough money to cover regular expenses, and 32 percent said financial concerns hurt their academic performance. Nearly one-third skipped buying required class materials because of the cost.

Still, the survey found 73 percent of first-year students and 75 percent of seniors agreed that college is a good investment.

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