Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Continuous Improvement and U.S. News Best Online Bachelor’s Programs List

The Office of Institutional Research and Planning recently completed the main data questionnaire for ranking consideration in the 2015 U.S. News Best Online Bachelor’s Programs List. Last year UMA was ranked #61 in the nation. 

This year’s survey included 111 questions - 33% are anticipated to be used in computing a ranking score but the majority are published to give prospective students information on program characteristics and used on future shortlists or other rankings. 

Below are some profile statistics about our distance education programs, that is, a degree program in which all required coursework is able to be completed using one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between students and instructor synchronously or asynchronously (U.S. News definition, includes Online, ITV/VC/Onsite Delayed-view). 


  • Nine programs offering 275 unique courses (includes general education) online this year (2014-15)
    • Bachelor of Applied Science
    • B.S. Business Administration (Management/Accounting)
    • B.S. Computer Information Systems
    • B.S. Information & Library Services
    • B.S. Justice Studies
    • B.A. Liberal Studies
    • B.S. Mental Health and Human Services
    • B.S. Public Administration
    • B.A. Social Science
  • Top 5 majors with largest percent of all online degrees conferred between July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014 (per CIP code):
    • Liberal Studies/Applied Science (36%)
    • Mental Health and Human Services (35%)
    • Information and Library Services (12%)
    • Business Administration (9%)
    • Justice Studies (7%)

Enrollment (July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014)
  • Total of 3,338 enrolled students with 16% military veterans (521 students)
    • 29% (966 students) were newly enrolled
    • Average age is 31 years old
  • Average class was 25 students (excludes DEA, DEH, NUR, VTE & sections with 1 student)
    • 29% of all class sections were over the maximum class size of 30 students (133 of 452 sections)
    • 52% of students were enrolled in class sections over the maximum class size of 30
Admissions (July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014)
  • 41% of new admissions (397) began with less than 25% progress towards degree (0-29 credits)
    • On average, 55 credits were applied to their degree
  • 20% of new admissions were first-year, full-time degree-seeking freshmen (194 students)
Graduates (July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014)
  • 77% of graduates borrowed to complete their degree (institutional, state, Federal Stafford, Perkins, private loans)
Faculty (July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014)
  • Total of 116 instructional faculty taught at least one bachelor’s online course
    • 51% by full-time and 49% by part-time faculty
    • 59% with a doctorate or terminal degree
    • On average, 13 years of experience teaching online courses
The Office of Institutional Research and Planning has shared a strategy memo with Leadership that based on the current ranking methodology identifies nine areas of best practice that UMA could consider for continuous improvement purposes both in potential numeric ranking and quality of our online programming.

If you are interested in learning more about the overall ranking methodology and/or main questionnaire please contact me.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Improving Understanding About Why Accepted Students Don't Enroll

This is a continuation of my June 12th post about competition and the challenges in recruiting non-traditional students. 

Over the last year (Summer 2013, Fall, 2013, Spring 2014) UMA accepted 2,735 students with 65% or 1,776 enrolling at UMA.  So what happened to the other 959 students that UMA accepted?

The Office of Institutional Research and Planning queried the National Student Clearinghouse database to track the enrollment, if any, of these 959 students that did not attend UMA after acceptance as of May 28, 2014.

Our analysis identified that –

  • 31% (295 students) were enrolled at another institution
  • 69% (664 students) were not enrolled in post-secondary education (i.e., at another institution)

The Office of Institutional Research and Planning attempted to contact these 664 students to better understand why they did not chose to enroll and if possible, assist with registering for a future semester. First, a two question online survey was administered to this group of 664 students in July. Next, all students that did not respond to the online survey were attempted by telephone to complete the survey in the month of August. In total, 140 surveys were completed resulting in a 21% survey response rate. 

The first question in the survey stated – “Our records indicate in the past year you were accepted for admission and chose not to enroll at UMA. Please share with us why you did not enroll.” 

Please find below a categorized list of verbatim comments to this question. A total of 140 students shared 221 reasons that were then coded into eight categories. Students identified seven factors that contributed to not enrolling at UMA.  

  • 42% Personal Decision/Life or Family Issues
  • 31% Financial Issues
  • 24% Work Conflicts
  • 15% Chose a Competitor (e.g., non-UMS)
  • 15% Perceived Customer Service Issues (i.e., primarily communication)
  • 8% Lack of Institutional Capabilities or Offerings (e.g., housing, programs etc.)
  • 7% Perceived Enrollment Process Bottlenecks (e.g., paperwork and steps)

With that said, 19% said that they intended to enroll at UMA in a future semester even in the midst of these issues. 

Next, the final question in the survey stated - “You have previously met admission requirements. In most cases, we would just need to update some information to reactive your admissions to UMA. Would you like UMA to contact you about enrolling for the fall or spring semesters?”

A total of 63 or 45% of students said ‘yes’ that they would like UMA to contact them about enrolling for the fall or spring semesters.

The Office of Institutional Research and Planning has plans to conduct similar research each year to not only improve our yield rate but support continued NEASC accreditation. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Competition and Challenges in Recruiting Non-Traditional Students

The vast majority of UMA students are working adults balancing jobs, families and education. This past fall semester nearly 6 out of 10 students were attending part-time and nearly 7 out of 10 students were age 25 or older (average age 29). 

Currently, more than 80% of students receive a Pell Grant, an award that does not have to be repaid. 50% of recent graduates who responded to our Graduating Student Survey (61% response rate) in the fall (2013) and spring (2014) semesters reported that they were the first in their immediate family to earn a degree.

Over the last year (Summer 13, Fall 13 and Spring 14) UMA accepted 2,735 students with 65% or 1,776 enrolling at UMA. So what happened to the other 959 students that UMA accepted? 

The Office of Institutional Research and Planning queried the National Student Clearinghouse database to  track the enrollment, if any, of these 959 students that did not attend UMA after acceptance as of May 28, 2014. 

Our analysis identified that -
  • 31% (295 students) were enrolled at another institution
  • 69% (664 students) were not enrolled in post-secondary education (i.e., at another institution)
The 31% or 295 students that did enroll at another institution after acceptance at UMA enrolled at the following types of institutions -
  • 34% chose another University of Maine System campus with the University of Maine as the unequivocal top choice
  • 32% chose a Maine Community College with Kennebec Valley and Eastern Maine Community Colleges as the top choices
  • 10% chose an In-State Private institution with Thomas College as the top choice (institution group included Kaplan University and Southern New Hampshire University)
  • 24% chose an Out-of-State or Online institution with no clear top choice (institution group included 2-Year and 4-Year Public, Private and For-Profits)
The majority of students were degree-seeking in a variety of academic majors. 

Additionally, we are in the early stages of contacting the students that UMA accepted but have not yet enrolled at UMA or another institution to better understand the reasons for non-enrollment and how UMA could facilitate enrollment. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Comparison Group: Measuring Institutional Performance

A committee of faculty and staff have completed the selection of UMA’s updated comparison group. This comparison group will be used to compare performance, practices and policies of this group of institutions to gain insight. 

The comparison group includes 11 Public, Four-year or above institutions (not ordered):

1. University of South Carolina-Beaufort
2. Athens State University
3. Ohio State University-Lima Campus
4. Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Brandywine
5. Georgia Gwinnett College
6. Indiana University-Kokomo
7. Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Altoona
8. Clayton State University
9. Purdue University-North Central Campus
10. Missouri Western State University
11. Bluefield State College

The IPEDS Data Center, College Navigator and visiting each institutions website were the primary sources of information to contextually filter the list of institutions. It should be noted that the Committee considered a variety of other meaningful variables (i.e., Pell Grants, Open Admissions, Distance Education etc.) which winnowed our institution list to very few or zero. 

The primary data variables selected that derived the list include:
The following list of institutions were the previous comparison group developed during the implementation of the 2009 UMS Strategic Plan: New Challenges and New Directions.
  • Clayton State University 
  • Great Basin College 
  • Indiana University-Kokomo
  • Louisiana State University-Alexandria 
  • Purdue University-North Central Campus 
  • Rogers State University 
In the Fall 2014 semester the Committee will again gather to develop an Aspirant comparison group to inform our strategic planning and goal-setting.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

NSSE 2013: Level of Academic Challenge

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) has organized sets of questions and responses into 10 Engagement Indicators (EIs). These EIs have been summarized into 4 themes: 
  1. Academic Challenge
  2. Learning with Peers
  3. Experiences with Faculty
  4. Campus Environment
This post highlights Academic Challenge findings. This theme includes 4 EIs:
  1. Higher-Order Learning
  2. Reflective & Interactive Learning
  3. Learning Strategies
  4. Quantitative Reasoning 
Click here to read the full Executive Summary No.2. 
  • Overall, more than 80% of students indicated that UMA emphasizes spending “significant time studying and on academic work.” More than 66% report that their courses are highly challenging.
  • Compared to peers, students spend significantly longer hours weekly preparing for class. 
  • Amount of reading and writing is comparable to peers. 
  • Students’ quantitative literacy is significantly lower than peers. On average, students’ quantitative reasoning was significantly lower (p<.05) with an effect size of less than .3 in magnitude, that is, there is a less than 5% chance that this result could have been produced by chance and the observed difference is not only statistically significant but also meaningful. 
  • Higher-Order Learning, Reflective and Integrative Learning, and Learning Strategies indicators received equivalent levels of learning engagement to peers.
Executive Summary No.3 will be available in June that will highlight High-Impact Practices

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Findings from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

UMA has participated in NSSE in 2007, 2010 and 2013.

NSSE has identified that student engagement symbolizes 2 important attributes of quality:
  1. Amount of time and effort UMA students put into their educational activities
  2. How UMA provides opportunities and encourages participation in activities that accumulated research have shown are linked to successful student learning
NSSE provides the opportunity for UMA to compare our students' responses with those of students at self-selected groups of comparison institutions. The survey questions are informed by accumulated research on student learning behaviors associated with successful outcomes of an education.

UMA uses the survey data to identify aspects of the educational experience, inside and outside the classroom that can be improved through policies and practices more consistent with good practices in undergraduate education.

Click here to read about the survey administration and responses from the Spring 2013. Overall, the survey achieved a 47% response rate with 508 first-year students and seniors completing the survey.

Executive Summary No.1 highlights the 5 Strengths and 5 Challenges among 53 survey questions relative to UMA’s selected comparison group.

Strengths & Out-Performed Comparison Institutions
  • Quality of interactions with faculty, academic advisors, student services and other administrative offices (e.g., Registrar, Financial Aid and etc.)
  • Faculty provided prompt and detailed feedback on assignments and were effective in using examples to explain difficult concepts
Challenges & Fell Short among Comparison Institutions
  • Discussions with people from different race/ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds
  • Opportunities to collaborate with other students on assignments and explain course material to other students
Over the coming weeks and months the Office of Institutional Research and Planning will share additional snapshot analyzes and a more comprehensive review of progress since the 2007 survey administration.

Source: NSSE (2014, April 2). About NSSE, Retrieved from http://nsse.iub.edu/html/about.cfm

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Continued Focus on Student Retention

The process of NEASC reaccreditation asks UMA to share information on student retention appropriate to our mission. Clearly, the traditional student cohort used in calculating retention rates, that is, First-year, Full-time Associate or Bachelor’s students (i.e., IPEDS Cohort), represents a very small percentage of our 6,500+ student body. 

Consequently, in preparing our report we have made a concerted effort to analyze the performance of several different student cohorts (e.g., Part-time students), recognizing the value of trends in data and importance of success these cohorts of students have on our goals for success. 

Click here to retrieve a snapshot trend report of student cohort retention rates. 

The report provides a 4-year average of retention rates for new students/admissions attending UMA including a semester-to-semester and annual analysis. 

The current cohorts available are - 
  • Total New Students/Admissions
    • First-year students
    • Readmitted students
    • Transfer students
  • Full-time or Part-time status
  • Location/Campus: Augusta, Bangor, University College or Online
  • Degree-level
  • Outcomes-Based Funding Programs
  • IPEDS or Traditional Students
  • Transfer Credits: greater than 30 or 90 credits
  • Maine Community College transfer students
As an example:

The middle columns of the report represents the 4-year average performance of Fall semester new students/admissions. 

Over the 4 years, UMA enrolled 5,057 new students in the Fall semester with 3,950 or 78% returning the following Spring semester and 2,809 or 56% returning one year later in the following Fall semester (first red row in report). 

Additionally, over this same Fall time-period UMA enrolled 1,037 new students that transferred credits to UMA from a Maine Community College with 839 or 81% returning the following Spring semester and 652 or 63% returning one year later in the following Fall semester (last orange row in report).

Additional looks at the data are available by semester and other cohorts of interest are in development.