Despite declining response rates, the University of Wisconsin sent out the National Survey of Student Engagement to students last week to evaluate different aspects of students’ undergraduate experiences.

Jillian Kinzey, associate director of the National Survey of Student Engagement, said the survey is directed at freshmen and seniors. It includes questions about the extent to which they have experienced different educational practices and the effect of those practices on student success, she said.

“The survey is a national survey instrument, so we strive to maintain consistency across all institutions so that they can actually engage in some sort of comparison,” Kinzey said. “They can actually see how they’re doing in relation to other institutions like them or that they aspire to be like.”

Invitations to take the survey are sent to students by email. Margaret Harrigan, senior policy and planning analyst with the Office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research, said UW response rates have continued to decrease since the school’s first administration of the study in 2001.

She said UW has participated in this study several times in the past, and tries to do so every three years.

“There are all kinds of questions in the survey that help us figure out what our students are experiencing,” Harrigan said. “And the survey is a really good way for us to get that information.”

A national panel of experts on assessment, learning and development theory created the survey after researching effective undergraduate educational practices and devising questions from their findings, according to Kinzey.

This national survey is used to evaluate educational practices at institutions of all types and levels. Since its development in 2000 the survey has had more than two million student responses, Kinzey said.

Regardless of decreasing response rates, Harrigan said results from the study are still taken seriously and being used to improve the undergraduate experience on campus. She said different programs, including the Cross-College Advising Service and the Center for the First-Year Experience, were developed after results from past surveys indicated UW’s need for improvement in these areas.

“There’s always room for more improvement, but after we put in the Cross-College Advising Service and we asked students again how they felt about advising, people were more satisfied,” Harrigan says. “So I think it did help.”

The survey will stay online through April, with incentives for students who have completed the survey and reminder emails for those who have not, according to a university statement.