Thousands of universities and colleges across the United States welcome a new class of students every fall. The students engage with faculty members inside of the classrooms, and the students bring life to the campus community through their involvement in clubs and organization. In the fall of 2015, we welcomed 2,072 students, which was the largest incoming class in the institution’s history. Each year, the TCU First Year Experience partners with Student Affairs Quality Enhancement to administer and analyze two surveys: the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The CIRP survey is given to students the summer before they start college and focuses on the incoming students’ characteristics and traits. The NSSE survey is administered in the spring semester of their first year and focuses on the experiences of first-year students at their institutions.

Who are the students in the Class of 2019?

The TCU Office of Admission shared in that 2015 we had 18,422 students apply and 7,973 were admitted. After the 12th day of classes, there were a total of 2,072 students in the Class of 2019. Using the CIRP survey, we compared the Class of 2019 to the national sample in three categories: Political & Social Issues, Diversity, and Finances. The following are some highlights of the statistically significant differences between TCU and the national sample. We found TCU students rated themselves higher than the national sample in two Political & Social areas:

  • Feel it’s important to help others in difficulty: National Sample: 75%, TCU: 86%
  • Believe being a community leader matters: National Sample: 40%, TCU: 58%

However, TCU students reported lower than the national sample in three Political & Social areas:

  • Endorse the right of same-sex couple to marry: National Sample: 81%, TCU: 74%
  • Believe marijuana should be legalized: National Sample: 56%, TCU: 44%
  • Support the legal status of abortion: National Sample: 34%, TCU: 15%

In regard to diversity topics, TCU students rated themselves higher than the national sample in “Want to improve their understanding of other countries and cultures.” However, they reported lower than the national sample in two topics:

  • Identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, or other: National Sample: 7%, TCU: 2%
  • Identify as agnostic, atheist, or not affiliated with any religion: National Sample: 30%, TCU: 8%

In the Finance category, TCU students reported lower than the national sample in three areas:

  • Rely on Pell Grants: National Sample: 27%, TCU: 13%
  • Have taken out loans: National Sample: 65%, TCU: 8%
  • Express concerns about financing their education: National Sample: 65%, TCU: 8%

TCU students reported higher than the national sample in one topic:

  • Utilize merit-based grants or scholarships: National Sample: 52%, TCU: 60%

We also know that TCU students are highly driven and motivated by success. In selecting TCU as their college of choice, TCU students reported higher than the national average in two areas:

  • Considered graduates admission to top graduate/ professional schools: National Sample: 38%, TCU: 47%
  • Considered graduates’ job placement: National Sample: 60%, TCU: 79%

The CIRP survey also helped us to understand the values of students in the Class of 2019. The students reported their top three most important values are:

  • Being well off financially
  • Raising a family
  • Helping others

When asked to select from a list of 20 traits and characteristic that best describes how student perceive themselves, TCU students’ top three traits and characteristics were:

  • Drive to achieve
  • Academic ability
  • Leadership ability

The lowest three traits and characteristics that the students reported were:

  • Artistic ability
  • Computer skills
  • Public speaking

What did the students in the Class of 2019 experience?

After spending a semester on campus, the NSSE survey was able to provide us with some insight to the students’ experiences and perceptions. Based on the survey, TCU students are more likely than the national sample to ask instructors for help when they struggle with a course assignment. The NSSE also provided valuable information about students’ reasons for leaving TCU. According to Institutional Research, TCU retention rate for the Class of 2019 was 91%, however, NSSE indicated 28.6% of students reported they considered leaving TCU. The top five reasons for students to consider leaving TCU compared to the national sample:

  • Financial concerns: National Sample: 42.7%, TCU: 51.6%
  • Personal reasons: National Sample: 33. 8%, TCU: 36.4%
  • Relations with other students: National Sample: 19.2 %, TCU: 33.7%
  • Too much partying: National Sample: 5.8%, TCU: 27.4%
  • Campus Culture: National Sample: 25.1%, TCU: 20%

Through understanding the characteristics and traits of the Class of 2019 and their experiences and perceptions, First Year Experience will continue to find strategic partnerships with faculty and staff to further support and develop students.

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Dr. Angela Taylor and Dr. Cathan Coghlan for leading the collection and analyzing of the CIRP and NSSE survey and providing institutional data.

Trung Nguyen

Lindsay KnightThis article was written by Trung Nguyen and Lindsay Throne Knight, Student Development Services, for the Spring 2017 Issue of Insights.