Regents examine undergrad life

BY ANNA CLARK
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 12, 2001

University Provost Nancy Cantor wants to get beyond the U.S. News and World Report college rankings to get at to the heart of the undergraduate experience at the University.

"The question is, what do we know about students" expectations for and experiences at Michigan," Cantor told the University"s Board of Regents at its monthly meeting yesterday.

The University"s Undergraduate Commission, chaired by Cantor, compiled results from six major surveys targeting students from every level of their engagement with the University, from admitted students who didn"t enroll to alumni six years after graduation.

The results featuring answers from concrete questions like "How many hours a week do you study?" and "How many artistic organizations are you a part of?" were then organized into five benchmarks for measuring student engagement: level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student interaction with faculty, enriching education experiences and supportive campus environment.

"These benchmarks are the core of what you would want a student at an undergraduate institution to be engaged in," Cantor said.

These results were then compared with the results from the same surveys from 46 peer institutions, including Michigan State, Northwestern and Harvard universities.

The University of Michigan achieved its highest ranking with the level of academic challenge benchmark in the 97th percentile among freshmen.

While most other benchmarks reached comparably high rankings, the University saw its lowest mark in the "student interaction with faculty" category. Among freshmen, the University is in the 48th percentile and among seniors, it is in the 60th percentile.

"We know this isn"t where we should be or where we"d like to be," Cantor said, adding that all major research institutions fall in this category. "This is an area where we really need to work on."

Cantor noted that the upcoming Life Sciences Institute will likely create "a steady traffic of interaction" between students and faculty.

University President Lee Bollinger said the overall high results were impressive for a large university.

"It"s terrific to know that students are so engaged in the intellectual life of this university," Bollinger said.

He added that he hopes future emphasis on upperclass students, including special living-learning communities and on-campus housing, will increase student engagement.

Also at the meeting, the regents voted unanimously to increase campus and family housing by 5 percent for the next academic year, citing a projected increase in utility costs. The University"s room and board rates remain the second-highest among Big Ten schools, after Northwestern University, but its cumulative percentage increases were the lowest between 1997 and 200.

The regents also approved the next phase of renovations to the Horace H. Rackham Building, which will force it to close for up to two years and displace graduate offices and event spaces. The renovations will focus on upgrading the utility and technology systems, as well as an update of several floors.