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Lawrence University ranks among the top schools in the nation when it comes to providing a high quality undergraduate educational experience according to a just-released national study of effective educational practices.

The 2003 Report of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), co-sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning, details the results from a nation-wide survey of 185,000 first-year students and seniors at 649 four-year colleges and universities.

The student engagement survey was developed by education assessment experts as an alternative to the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings, which have been criticized for placing too much weight on institutional reputation and selectivity in admissions rather than on actual educational outcomes.

The survey annually provides comparative standards for determining how effectively colleges and universities are contributing to student learning based on five measured benchmarks: level of academic challenge; active and collaborative learning; student-faculty interaction; enriching educational experiences; and a supportive campus environment.

Lawrence scored high on all five benchmarks, regularly outscoring the composite mean for the national comparison group of all colleges and universities participating in the survey. Lawrence placed in the top 20 percent of all institutions in all but one instance and in the top 10 percent for the measures “level of academic challenge” and “enriching educational experiences.”

The NSSE benchmark measures assess the extent to which undergraduate students are involved in educational practices empirically linked to high levels of learning and development. Research over the past 30 years has shown that student engagement is critical to successful educational outcomes at the undergraduate level and that colleges and universities that encourage close student-faculty interaction, student involvement in collaborative learning and research, and active engagement in extra-curricular activities offer the most effective educational environment for student learning.

“A demanding and rigorous liberal education, fostered through individual engagement, close interaction between students and faculty members, and a supportive campus environment, is the essence of a Lawrence education,” said president Richard Warch. “Having Lawrence place among the top colleges and universities that participated in a national survey on effective educational practices, one that measures how students are actually learning, is a satisfying reaffirmation of what Lawrence does best.”

Among the NSSE’s specific findings were:

On the measure “enriching educational experiences,” Lawrence scored higher, for both first-year students and seniors, than 90 percent of the 649 four-year institutions participating in this year¹s study.

On the measure “level of academic challenge,” Lawrence’s score, for both first-year students and seniors, was better than 90 percent of the institutions participating in the study.

On the measure “student-faculty interaction,” Lawrence’s score was higher than that of 90 percent of the participating institutions for seniors, and higher than 80 percent for first-year students.

On the measure of a “supportive campus environment,” Lawrence’s score, for both first-year students and seniors, was greater than approximately 80 percent of the institutions participating in the study.

On the measure “active and collaborative learning,” Lawrence’s score for seniors was higher than 80 percent of the other institutions. The first-year student score was higher than approximately 60 percent of the comparison group.