Archive for the ‘News’ Category

2016 Diverse Learning Environments Research Brief

Posted by Joseph Ramirez on August 11th, 2016 in News, News Homepage, Surveys | Comments Off

We are pleased to announce our latest research brief based on the 2016 Diverse Learning Environments (DLE) survey, administered to more than 35,000 students from 30 institutions. Results from the multi-institutional DLE sample, also highlighted in an infographic, reveal students’ perceptions of campus diversity, identity salience, diversity courses, and student actions to address bias and promote diversity.

While the majority of students feel their institution promotes an appreciation of differences and has a long-standing commitment to diversity, student experiences and beliefs vary across different individual and institutional characteristics.

In addition, the DLE instrument for the 2017 administration is now available. Changes for the 2017 administration include a revised question about gender identity, more detailed questions on military service, questions on dating violence, and items addressing personal and campus safety. Campuses that are interested in administering the DLE can view the new 2017 instrument as well as the complete list of changes made to the survey. To learn more about the DLE, please visit

Fifty Years: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Posted by Abbie Bates on February 10th, 2016 in News, News Homepage, Surveys | Comments Off

This year marks the 50th administration of the CIRP Freshman Survey and we are excited to celebrate the release of The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2015. Since 1966, more than 15 million students at 1,900 colleges and universities have completed CIRP surveys. The CIRP Freshman Survey is the largest and longest running survey of American college students.

This past year was marked by intrigue, curiosity, and great tumult. Through use of the imaging spectrometer on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, we discovered that water currently flows on the Red Planet and the New Horizons space probe completed its flyby of Pluto nine years after its launch from Cape Canaveral. In November, the world was rocked by the terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead. The devastating news sent shockwaves across the globe, but an outpouring of support for Parisians only reinforced a greater sense of unity and resolve among the world community. The Black Lives Matter movement surged on in 2015 with urgency to combat an ever growing list of issues of bias and discrimination against Black individuals. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, thus allowing same-sex couples to legally wed in all 50 states.  Over the course of the last year, college tuition has become a hotly debated topic. Conservatives and liberals alike have numerous plans on how to effectively remedy concerns about costs. The Obama Administration even went so far as to issue their “College Scorecard,” touted as a consumer awareness device, but after harsh criticism the scorecard was abandoned shortly after its inception.

It was in this context that college freshmen were entering higher education in the fall of 2015.  Other findings highlighted in The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2015 include:

  • A revival of student activism and civic engagement
  • A look at Pell Grant recipients
  • Jobs and graduate school as prominent influences in the college choice process
  • An examination of the connections between sexual orientation and mental health
  • Political orientation continues to favor the left

One new question introduced this past year asked students about their participation in a summer bridge program:

How many weeks this summer did you participate in a bridge program at this institution? The response options were: 0, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7+

Summer bridge programs are a type of college transition intervention that occurs during the summer before the freshman year and are designed to help students transition to the college environment. Responses from this question revealed that 5.6% of incoming freshmen participated in a summer bridge program, many of these students participating for one to two weeks.

Another interesting set of findings relates to the types of high school students attended.  Here is the breakdown of attendance at different types of high schools for this fall’s incoming freshmen:

  • 73.9% traditional public school
  • 4.1% public charter school
  • 4.0% public magnet school
  • 10.2% private religious/parochial school
  • 7.0% private independent college-prep school
  • .8% home school

In general, traditional public school (not charter or magnet) attendance has decreased in the past year (77% in 2014 to 73.9% in 2015) and in fact, it is the lowest it has been since the question was first asked in 2005.  In addition, we have seen the greatest growth in public charter schools (an increase of about 3 percentage points).

Furthermore, in 2015, 77.3% of all traditional public school students were accepted by their first-choice college, compared to only 68.6% of those from public charter schools, and 67.3% of those from private independent college-prep high schools.  One question on the TFS that has been asked since 1978, inquires about students’ experiences with special tutoring or remedial work while in high school and expectations for needing it in college:

Have you had, or do you feel you will need, any special tutoring or remedial work in any of the following subjects?

English, Reading, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, Foreign Language, Writing

Responses revealed that fewer students than in previous years had tutoring or remedial work, but students attending public charter schools were more likely than students at any other type of high school to indicate that they had special tutoring or remedial work. This was true for all subject areas.

As we continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the CIRP Freshman Survey, please join us at several national conferences to share in the festivities:

  • American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting – April 8 – 12 – Washington, DC
  • Association for Institutional Research (AIR) Annual Forum – May 31 – June 3 – New Orleans, LA
  • Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) Annual Conference – November 10 – 12 – Columbus, OH

More detailed information about the receptions to come.


2014: NYC’s Freedom Tower

Posted by Oscar J. Mayorga on January 28th, 2016 in News, News Homepage, Surveys, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Pharrell Williams, an established artist and producer, created Happy, an earworm-worthy top hit in 2014. Yet some of the top artists arriving on the scene transcended established musical genres. Hits by Sam Smith, Meghan Trainor and DJ Snake impacted music by providing new perspective on well-known and familiar styles moving audiences emotionally and on the dance floor. As the music scene was hitting new levels, there were also new changes occurring in the United States.  It was in 2014 that Janet Yellen was appointed as the first woman to serve as Chair of the Federal Reserve.  There was also a new birth in NYC with the opening of the Freedom Tower. The Freedom Tower is the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth tallest in the world. The Freedom Tower was built on the site of the twin towers, and also serves as a memorial to those who perished on that tragic day. The Freedom tower symbolizes the resilience of the city and the nation.

Remedial Education in High School and College

In 2014, TFS introduced a question asking students about the remedial work they had taken in high school and the remedial work they were expecting to take in college (Item #19). This is a slight variation on the remedial work/special tutoring question from prior years. These questions were asked across four disciplines – English, math, writing, and reading. We found that 20.5% of students took remedial work in English in high school, 19.0% had remedial work in reading, 20.1% had remedial work in mathematics, and 17.2% had remedial work in writing.  When looking at how many students felt they would need remedial work in college, we found that 9% of students said that they needed remedial work in English, 7.1% needed remedial work in reading, 18.6% of students needed remedial work in mathematics and 12.5% needed remedial work in writing.

What is of interest is how many of those who had remedial work in high school thought they would also need remedial work in college. We found that of those who took remedial English, 5.8% reported that they would need it again in college. Nearly one in ten (9.9%) of those who did not take remedial English in high school reported that they would need it in college.  We observe a similar pattern in mathematics.  Of those who had remedial math in high school, 11.9% reported that they would need remedial math in college, while 20.3% of students who did not take remedial math in high school believed they would need remedial math in college.

Self-Rated Ability

The TFS has consistently asked students to rate their ability on certain skills.  In 2014, the TFS redesigned the ability question (Item #39).  Many of the items remained the same, but the response options changed from categorizing their ability compared to others  (e.g. highest 10%, above average, average, below average, and lowest 10%) to asking students to reference their ability in terms of their strengths (e.g. a major strength, somewhat strong, average, somewhat weak, a major weakness). On the 2014 TFS we found that 24.5% of students report their general knowledge being a major strength.  When compared across the 3 largest aggregated majors (e.g. Business , Biological & Life Science , Engineering on the 2014 TFS), we found that 26.1% of business majors,  , 26.7% of biological and life sciences majors,  and 28.6% of Engineering majors report general knowledge as a major strength.

Did you know?

36.6% of incoming students “strongly agree/somewhat agree” that federal military spending should be increased.

67.9% of incoming students “strongly agree/somewhat agree” that addressing global climate change should be a federal priority.

41.0% of incoming students “strongly agree/somewhat agree” that the death penalty should be abolished.


2013: Harlem and Chelyakinsk Shake

Posted by Oscar J. Mayorga on January 20th, 2016 in News, News Homepage, Surveys | Comments Off

After the high of Gangnam Style by Psy, DJ Baauer produced the next viral dance craze – the Harlem Shake.  This song with few lyrics and catchy dance rhythms spurred students and others to make their own dance videos using wacky customs and “funky” dance moves including the World Champion Miami Heat Basketball Team. However, Harlem was not the only place shaking. In February 2013 in Chelyakinsk, Russia, a large asteroid exploded in the atmosphere. The sonic shock wave shattered windows of hundreds of buildings, causing both injury and property damage. Despite the damage, people around the world were amazed by the footage captured on video.

An exploding asteroid was not the only must-watch TV; 2013 marked the end of two popular, but different shows: 30 Rock and Breaking Bad. Meanwhile, Netfilx began producing its own original content with the release of House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey. The series focused on political power and its accumulation. However, the real drama was the United States Federal Government shutdown from October 1st -16th. The House of Representatives halted the business of the country due to a debate over a defunding measure for the Affordable Care Act that was tied to the government-funding bill.


The 2013 TFS questionnaire had several new items; one of the items asked students to rate themselves compared to the average person their age on risk-taking. (Scale: Lowest 10%, Below Average, Average, Above Average and Highest 10% – See Item #38). It is important to note that risk-taking in the item had not been given a specific context and could be interpreted by the student in a positive way (e.g. volunteering to speak in front of the class) or negative way (e.g. gambling).  Approximately two-fifths (41.6%) of respondents’ self-report average risk-taking while 13% report highest 10% and 31% report above average.  We also found that among men 38.3% of respondents reported having average risk-taking ability while 44.4% of women respondents reported having average risk-taking ability.  We also found that 35.0% of men report above average risk-taking ability while 15.9% of men report having highest 10% risk-taking ability.  When compared to women, 27.6% of women respondents report an above average risk-taking ability while 10.5% of women respondents report having risk-taking ability at the highest 10%.  To place risk-taking rates into context, on the 2013 TFS 35.7% of students report average ability in public speaking with 13% reporting public speaking ability in the highest 10% and above average at 25.8%.  A similar pattern emerges when students’ are asked about their leadership ability. In the same 2013 TFS, 29% of students report average leadership ability, 38.4% report above average and 25% of students report having ability in the highest 10%. Ultimately, it seems that risk-taking ability shares similar distributions to that of other traits.

Online Courses

In the future action bank of questions, we ask incoming students the likelihood they will participate in certain activities (See Item #47 – “What is your best guess as to the chances that you will:” and the scale includes very good chance, some chance, very little chance, and no chance). Two new items ask if incoming students plan to take online courses during their college career (e.g. “take a course exclusively online at this institution” and “at a different institution”). A quarter of students (25.2%) reported that there is a “very good chance” or “some chance” that they would take a course exclusively online at their institution while 14.8% of students reported that there was a “very good chance” or “some chance” that they would take a course exclusively online at a different institution.

Did you know?

72.0% of incoming students “agree strongly” or “agree somewhat” that the chief benefit of a college education is that it increases one’s earning power.

37.0% of incoming students “agree strongly” or “agree somewhat” that the federal government should raise taxes to reduce the deficit.

48.4% of incoming students say it is an “essential” goal to be very well off financially.






2012: Higgs Boson and 2012 Election

Posted by Oscar J. Mayorga on January 12th, 2016 in News, News Homepage, Surveys, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Korean superstar Psy released the world smash hit Gangnam Style in July 2012.  The song traveled the world’s radio stations and received over a billion views on YouTube.  What made this hit unique in the United States is that most of the lyrics are in Korean. In the past, foreign dance hits tended to be in Spanish, such as the “Macarena,” which was a sensation almost twenty years earlier in 1995.

Science Discovery

While the world was dancing Gangnam Style, physicists were making a huge scientific leap; they found evidence of the Higgs Boson or “God Particle.”  In 2012, The CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland was able to identify the Higgs Boson, an essential particle in the Standard Model of Physics.  The verification of the Higgs Boson brings the theoretical work of Peter Higgs and five other physicists from the realm of hypothesis to fact, which won them the Noble Prize in Physics. As scientific discoveries are made, we wonder how students’ interest in studying science may be impacted.

In 2012, the TFS included questions about students’ prior education in math and science. In the physical sciences, which includes physics in most school systems, 31.5% of students had taken one year of physical science while 31.8% had taken two years and 29.6% of had taken three or more years of physical science classes.  The majority of students (80.1%) had taken four years of math while a select 7.5% had taken 5 or more years of math between grades 9-12.  We also found that 30% completed an AP Calculus course and 15.4% completed an AP Probability and Statistics course. What is welcome news is that an overwhelming majority of students (81.1%) had taken a pre-calculus or trigonometry course before entering college.

TFS also collects data on students’ intended major, career interests, and goals.  From all the possible major choices (See the end of the survey for a complete list – Item number # 23), 2.5% selected majors from the aggregated category of physical science that includes physics, chemistry, other physical science, astronomy and astrophysics, and earth and planetary science. It is not surprising that 22.4% of physical science majors selected scientific researcher as a probable career choice, while 18.1% selected being a physician as a career choice (For all career choices given see Item number #34).   One of the goals students are asked about is the importance of “making a theoretical contribution to science;” 59.6% of physical science majors reported that it was “essential” or “very important.” Students entering physical science majors have a desire to make scientific breakthroughs, however, a little more than 1/5th identified scientific researcher as a career choice.

2012 Election

As great leaps were occurring in science, 2012 also marked a significant year for U.S. politics; President Obama was re-elected for a second term. The political theme that arose during the campaign was income inequality. The 2012 TFS has one item that asks students to directly consider the issue of income inequality.  We found that 64.6% of incoming students “agree strongly” or “agree somewhat” that wealthy people should pay a larger share of taxes than they did at the time. When cross-tabulating views about income inequality with political views (e.g. How would you characterize your political views? Scale: Far Right, Conservative, Middle-of-the-road, Liberal and Far Left), we find that 66.4% of middle-of-the-road students “agree somewhat” or “strongly agree” that wealthy people should pay a larger share of taxes than they do now. What is of interest is that a little over a third (34.9%) of far right students “agree strongly” or “agree somewhat” that wealthy people should pay a larger share of taxes than they do now, while 85% of students on the far left “agree strongly” or “agree somewhat” with the wealthy paying more in taxes.  In sum, regardless of political views one could argue that there is a shared understanding of income inequality.

Did you know?

19.3% of incoming students considered themselves Pre-Med.

6.3% of incoming students considered themselves Pre-Law.

2.6% of incoming students were ROTC, cadet or midshipman at a service academy.


2011: Financial Recovery

Posted by Oscar J. Mayorga on January 5th, 2016 in News, News Homepage, Surveys, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Two long-standing U.S. institutions ended their work in 2011: NASA Space Shuttle Program and the Oprah Winfrey Show. NASA’s 30-year running space shuttle program ended with Endeavor’s final trip to the international space station. Despite the tragedies of the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, the ending of the space shuttle program marks the end of the U.S. government sponsoring human space travel program.  Yet, hope is on the horizon as Space X, a private space company, continues to make efforts for travels to the stars.  Oprah Winfrey’s show ended its 25 year run on daytime television.  Oprah’s show was a phenomenon that changed how daytime talk television was produced and how it entertained a nation. Who can forget the now iconic image of “you get car, your get car, everybody gets a car”. Oprah’s show featured audience engagement often displayed in popular shows today such as the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Economic Recovery and Paying for College

The U.S. Census reported that real household income declined from 2010 to 2011 by 1.7%. According to the census the median household income in 2011 was $50,054.  Student’s median self-reported parental income ranged from $75,000 to $99,999. Despite the higher median incomes for college going students, many families perceived the financial stresses.  In 2011, TFS asked incoming students if the current economic situation significantly affected their college choice and 63.9% of respondents “agree strongly” or “agree somewhat”. When asked about their ability to finance their education, 11.9% of students responded that they have “major concerns” while 55.5% said that they had “some concerns”. Overall, students expressed some type of concern about the ability to pay for college.

Working During College

Regardless of the real or perceived differences in affording college, slow recovery influenced student college choice. How did the financial circumstance inform choices about whether or not to work during college? TFS reported that 49.1% of students said there was a “very good chance” that they would get a job to pay for college expenses while 32.6% said there was “some chance” that they would get a job.  When asking students specifically about working full-time, we found that only 6.9% of students said there was a “very good chance” that they will work full-time while attending college while 22.5% said there was “some chance” that they would work full-time.  In light of Occupy Wall Street, which began in September 2011, only 6.0% said that there was a “very good chance” that they would participate in student protests or demonstrations while 25.2% said there was “some chance”.  Finally, to get a sense of student engagement with learning during this time, we found that 67.5% of students said there was a “very good chance” to make at least a ‘B’ average while 29.3% said there was “some chance” that they would make at least a ‘B’ average.  Students appeared to be concerned about their parents’ ability to pay for college and would consider taking a job themselves in order to pay for college expenses. However, the portion of students going to work full-time was much smaller.  In sum, the perception of the slow economic growth affected many across the board in particular with college choice as well as their consideration to work on-campus.

Did you know?

Students spend an average of 6 to 10 hours socializing with friends.

Students spend an average of 3 to 5 hours studying or doing homework.

Students spend an average of 1 to 2 hours working for pay.


2010: Politics and Policy

Posted by Oscar J. Mayorga on December 22nd, 2015 in News, News Homepage, Surveys | Comments Off

The year 2010 started with a devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti that resulted in the death of approximately 220,000- 316,000 people and billions of dollars in property and infrastructure damage. Later that year, another disaster – this one human-made – devastated the environment for wildlife and humans alike. The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill spewed over 130 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico from April 20 to July 15. This oil spill was the largest at that point in U.S. history.  Among these catastrophes, civil discourse was also deteriorating.  The country witnessed political rhetoric impeding progress towards finding solutions to difficult policy issues. We see that students entering college reflect this national discourse.

The TFS has been asking students about their political views since 1971. Students self-identified their political views across five categories. The “middle-of-the-road” category was the largest at 44.3%, while only 1.8% of students reported being “far right” and 2.8% of students report being “far left.” Liberal students make up 28.9% of incoming freshmen while 22.2% identify as conservative. Students attending college skew slightly toward the liberal side.

The political debate regarding environmental issues was also on the forefront as the nation viewed 130 million gallons of oil gush into the Gulf of Mexico on live television. Incoming students were asked if “the federal government is not doing enough to control environmental pollution.”  Overall, 78.6% “agree strongly or agree somewhat” that the federal government was not doing enough to control pollution.  In a similar way to healthcare, but not as extreme, student’s policy considerations are related to political views. We find that 43.1% of far right students “agree strongly or agree somewhat” while 91.8% of far left “agree strongly or agree somewhat.” We do see a continued divide between conservatives (60.5%) and liberals (89.6%), with middle-of-the-road students closer to those on the liberal side.

On June 25, 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed and was a hot topic in the political discourse. TFS in 2010 asked a question on national health insurance.  Overall, 60.3% of incoming students “agree strongly or agree somewhat” that a “national health care plan is needed to cover everybody’s medical cost.”  In a cross tabulation between political views and the national health care item, results are as expected. Those on the far left and far right have clear differentiating levels of support for a national health care plan. 19.5% of the far right “agree strongly or agree somewhat” with a national health care plan while 90.5% of the far left “agree strongly or somewhat”.  We find that the middle-of-the-road students support national health care at 61%, while those students who self-identify as conservative (25.9%) and liberals (84.7%) have different approval rates in the expected direction.

In sum, the TFS provides a snapshot of how the larger political discourse impacts students before entering college. It is important to note that CIRP’s other instruments (Your First College Year, Diverse Learning Environments, and College Senior Survey) serve to help institutions follow-up on students’ beliefs and values and identify practices that may help foster or increase civil discourse not only on campus, but in society at large.

Did you know?

13.1% of incoming students “frequently” demonstrated for/against a cause in the past year.

35.4% of incoming students “frequently” performed volunteer work in the past year.

11.3% of incoming students “frequently” or “occasionally” worked on a local, state, or national political campaign.


2009: Same-Sex Marriage and Political Dissent

Posted by Oscar J. Mayorga on December 15th, 2015 in News, News Homepage, Surveys | Comments Off

The sixth installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter movie franchise ‐ the Half-Blood Prince was released in 2009. In the Half-Blood Prince, we say farewell to Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore and are in disbelief by the betrayal of Severus Snape. This fictional death of a beloved character was not the only good-bye that year. It also marked the end of analog television, when we were constantly reminded that our old “bunny-ear” antennas would no longer work. As TV technology was moving forward, we recalled the music and life of the King of Pop ‐ Michael Jackson ‐ who also died.  The death of Michael Jackson was felt across the United States and the world.  Jackson’s musical contributions are undeniable despite his legal issues and media frenzy during his lifetime. Songs like Billie Jean, Thriller, and Bad continue to influence artists today as well as remain in our musical consciences.

In addition to the entertainment world, there were significant changes in the political landscape. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was sworn to her office as the third woman and first Latina on the nation’s highest court. The country was on its slow recovery from the great recession. Along with these, two major changes were occurring in the country – same-sex marriage and the tone of political discourse.

Same-sex marriage
In 2009, the states of Iowa, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire all legalized same-sex marriage. This string of victories for marriage equality continued in 2010 with the overturning of California’s Ban on Gay Marriage as well as President Obama declaring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. As the tides were changing in 2009, the media argued that young people were leading the way.  In 2009, 65.3% of incoming students “agreed strongly or agreed somewhat” that same-sex couples should have the right to legal marriage.  In sum, many argue that 2009 was the year when marriage equality gained momentum that led to the historic June 26, 2015 Supreme Court Decision of Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states.

Political Dissent
It was also in 2009, when the acrimonious nature of politics took a turn for the worse. One example was Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouting “You lie” to President Obama during a joint session of Congress while President Obama was giving a speech on the pending health care law. The political right began organizing and protesting around the health care law, the size of government, and Obama’s presidency. In 2009, TFS asked incoming students about the role of dissent in politics and 61.5% “strongly agree or agree somewhat” that “Dissent is a critical component of the political process.” The political discourse during this time became increasingly more vitriolic.  It could be argued that incoming students had a tolerance for such extreme discourse by the level that it should be allowed on-campus.  We found that only 40.7% of incoming students “agree strongly or agree somewhat” that “colleges have the right to ban extreme speakers from campus”. Incoming students in 2009 viewed political dissent as essential to the political process and that extreme views should not be censored.

Did you know?

30.3% of incoming students “frequently” discussed politics in the past year.

37.4% of incoming students “agree or strongly agree” that students from disadvantaged social backgrounds should be given preferential treatment in college admissions.

51.8% of incoming students “frequently” accept mistakes as part of the learning process.

2008: The Great Recession and the Election of Obama

Posted by Oscar J. Mayorga on December 8th, 2015 in News, News Homepage, Surveys | Comments Off

In 2008, great changes occurred in the United States and globally, including the election of Barack Obama and the Great Recession. Most of the media attention regarding the great recession did not begin in earnest until the fall of 2008. There were several events that led to the financial crisis. The Federal Reserve continued lowering interest rates throughout 2008 to spur growth in the declining housing market, and Bear Sterns, a brokerage firm, collapsed in March of 2008. The feds took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September of 2008, and the next week Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. The impact of the crisis was felt in higher education. Endowment values decreased substantially, students’ ability to afford college was hampered as home values dropped, and many colleges tightened budgets by asking faculty and staff to reduce salaries, lay off personnel, or cut academic programs.

Career Goals

Did the Great Recession impact students’ long-term post-college goals? It is important to note that by the time Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy the Freshman Survey administration was closed.  Therefore, incoming students responses were not influenced by the main thrust of the financial crisis that preceded the Lehman Brother’s collapse.  However, it is possible that students may have been influenced by the media coverage while the survey was open during March 2008 to late September 2008.

The TFS has been asking students about long-term goals since 1971. We have found that the student responses have varied across the years.  What is relevant is how students have internalized or perceived the economic crisis in their long-term goals.

The top three goals in 2007 and 2008 were the same: “raising a family”, “being well of financially”, and “helping others who are in difficulty” (See Figure 1). There was a 3.7 percentage point increase in students reporting it was essential to be well off financially. On the other hand, there was a 0.6 percentage point decrease in students saying that raising a family was an “essential” goal for them. More than one-quarter of incoming students indicated that helping others in need was an “essential” goal.  In sum, the overall trend of college goals was not affected, but we do see a slight bump in the proportion of students placing greater importance on being well off financially.

Figure 1

Obama and Pluralistic Orientation

The election of Barack Obama was one of great hope and optimism. Many hailed the election of the first African-American president as evidence of a turning point in race relations in the United States. As part of the 2008 TFS, students were asked if they agreed with the following statement: Racial discrimination is no longer a major problem in America.  Overall, only 20.1% of students agreed or strongly agreed that racial discrimination was no longer a problem. However, when examining differences in views by race, 22.1% of white students agreed or strongly agreed while 13.3% of black students agreed or strongly agreed. Thus, shortly before Barack Obama’s election as president, black students still were much more likely to feel that racial discrimination was a problem in America compared to their white peers. It is important to note that the TFS was administered and closed before the election took place.

Also in 2008, The Pluralistic Orientation scale was introduced on the TFS.  The scale was designed to measure skills and dispositions appropriate for living and working in a diverse society. Of the incoming students, 25.8% had a high pluralistic orientation score while 45.5% had an average score.  Despite these pluralistic orientation scores, there are still pending issues on campuses around inclusion and equity.  Campus movements such as IAMHARVARD, Being Black at Michigan and Black Bruins are speaking up and calling out administrations for their lack of efforts in fostering inclusive campuses.  These student activist efforts have demanded change. Most recently, students at the University of Missouri accomplished removing the president and chancellor of the university for their inability to address racial issues on campus.

Did you know?

85.9% of incoming students discussed politics in the last year either “frequently or occasionally”.

11.8% of incoming students worked on a local, state or national political campaign in the last year either “frequently or occasionally”.

25.7% of incoming students participated in political demonstrations “frequently or occasionally” in the past year.

TFS 2008 Student Goal Item and Options

Indicate the importance to you personally of:

1 = Not important
2 = Somewhat important
3 = Very important
4 = Essential

Becoming accomplished in one of the performing arts (acting, dancing, etc.)
Becoming an authority in my field
Obtaining recognition from my colleagues for contributions to my special field
Influencing the political structure
Influencing social values
Raising a family
Having administrative responsibility for the work of others
Being very well off financially
Helping others who are in difficulty
Making a theoretical contribution to science
Writing original works (poems, novels, short stories, etc.)
Creating artistic work (painting, sculpture, decorating, etc.)
Becoming successful in a business of my own
Becoming involved in programs to clean up the environment
Developing a meaningful philosophy of life
Participating in a community action program
Helping to promote racial understanding
Keeping up to date with political affairs
Becoming a community leader
Improving my understanding of other countries and cultures

2007: Helicopter Parents and Gun Control

Posted by Oscar J. Mayorga on December 1st, 2015 in News, News Homepage, Surveys | Comments Off


The phenomenon of helicopter parents rose to national consciousness in 2007, raising questions about students’ self-reliance and independence. News stories focused on the role of parents throughout multiple stages of the college going process: from making the decision to go to college, applying, and choosing a college to contacting administrators and even selecting courses. On the 2007 TFS, several items focused on students’ views about their parental involvement.


Only 10.4% of students reported that their parents were involved “too much” in the decision to go to college. An overwhelming majority (84.0%) said that their parents were involved the “right amount”.  The pattern continued when we asked students about their parents’ involvement in the application process.  Approximately, one tenth of students (10.7%) reported their parents involved were too involved in the application process, while again a majority (74.2%) reported that their parents were involved the “right amount”.  While college officials claimed that parents were getting involved in the student experiences even after they began college, only 5.9% of students believed that their parents were too involved in dealing with campus officials, compared to 77.5% that said that their parents were involved the “right amount.”


Sadly, in the spring of 2007, there was a tragic, on-campus mass shooting at Virginia Tech University, in which 32 people were killed and 17 were wounded. The Virginia Tech incident brought an awareness to gun violence on campus, and many incoming students felt strongly that the government should do more to regulate their sale.  Among incoming college students, 77.8% agreed or strongly agreed that the federal government should do more to control the sale of handguns. Unfortunately, campus violence debates continue today, shaped by continued and recent tragedies, such as the shootings at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR and the stabbing of students at University of California, Merced. States now have to decide if they will allow students and faculty to carry concealed weapons on campus.


In sum, the college experience is changing. Colleges and universities reflect the world that we live in and we see that these changes impact how student live and learn on campus.


Did you know?


58.4% of incoming students “strongly agree/agree” that wealthy people should pay a larger share of taxes than they do now.


77.8% of incoming students “strongly agree/agree” that through hard work, everybody can succeed in American society.


69.5% of incoming students personally thought it “essential/very important” to help others who are in difficulty.