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What Do Students Really
Think About UConn?
Survey Seeks to Find Out
September 6, 1999

Hoping to discern in more detail the attitudes, likes and dislikes of UConn students, officials have turned to the University's Center for Survey Research and Analysis to prepare and conduct a series of annual polls of students and recent graduates.

"It's hard for us (administrators) to sit at a table, most of us having left college years earlier, and decide what an 18-year-old believes, what they need and want from us," says Susan Steele, vice provost for undergraduate education and instruction. "I'm frustrated that I don't have the information I need to see how we're doing. So we decided to go straight to the source."

Other findings from the April survey include:

§ 48 percent said the registration process is either excellent or good; another 40 percent rated it fair;

§ Among required courses, the most difficult to register for are "W," or writing, courses, cited by 20 percent of the students; literature courses and courses required in their major each appeared on 16 percent of the surveys;

§ Offering easier transfer procedures from other schools (81 percent), offering more courses during the summer (74 percent), or capping enrollment (65 percent) were the most often cited remedies.

More than 1,200 students returned the survey, which was administered in April during class by nearly 50 faculty members. The students were drawn from all years, from freshmen to seniors.

Early results are in, Steele says. And, while the answers received in the first survey - exploring course availability at the Storrs campus - were not altogether positive, they do highlight several areas where improvements could be made relatively easily, she says.

"We're already talking about developing summer programming, making it more robust," Steele says. "And we can clean up a lot of the timing conflicts with courses, and work on making it easier to transfer credits into UConn from the community colleges," she added, noting three changes students cited as desirable.

In fact, while 64 percent of the students surveyed said they were either somewhat or very satisfied with course availability at Storrs, 81 percent of the students who were not satisfied cited timing conflicts as the primary cause of their displeasure.

Those conflicts, Steele says, are caused to a large extent by the proliferation of courses offered between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She says deans and faculty members have already been asked to consider spreading their course offerings to other days and times to ease that glut of courses.

Steele also expressed concern that only 67 percent of the students surveyed said they would choose UConn again, if given the chance to revisit their college choice. Twenty-two percent were not sure what they would do, and 11 percent said they would not choose UConn.

Yet 92 percent of the respondents said they plan to earn a degree from UConn.

Steele said other surveys to be conducted by the center, which is based in the Department of Political Science and conducts 70-80 surveys annually, including the Hartford Courant/UConn Poll, will focus on entering students, captured during orientation; students at the midpoint of their tenure at UConn; students preparing to graduate; and alumni, once two years after graduation and again five years after their commencement. Students who leave before they graduate also will be surveyed. The survey regarding availability of courses also will be repeated annually.

"We want the surveys to become a regular part of life at the University, so we can track cohorts, individuals or groups over time," Steele says. "It also will allow us to check the class of '99, and compare them to the class of '02, etc., to see if the changes we institute have the desired effect."

Richard Veilleux