Does the type of school an undergraduate attends really make a difference?
A new survey suggests that it does.
A comparative alumni survey, conducted by the independent research
firm of Hardwick Day and commissioned by the Annapolis Group (a consortium
of the nation's leading liberal arts colleges, including St. Lawrence
University), has found that the undergraduate experience students encounter
at small, residential liberal arts colleges is more effective in producing
meaningful and lasting benefits than the education experienced at large,
public universities and other institutions of higher education.
The study, titled What Matters in College After College, has been published
on the Annapolis Group Web site, www.Collegenews.org.
The survey indicates that a residential, liberal arts education not
only leads to a number of immediate positive outcomes, but that these
outcomes are present in and important to liberal arts college alumni
long after their college experience has ended.
Among the findings:
# Alumni from Annapolis Group liberal arts colleges reported closer
interaction with professors, greater involvement in experiential learning
and extracurricular activities and an emphasis on values and ethics
that is often absent at public universities.
# Liberal arts college graduates also reported a greater sense of community
with other students, friendships and opportunities for peer interactions
not found at the public institutions.
# Liberal arts college grads are significantly more likely than graduates
of other types of colleges to hold a graduate degree and to feel better
prepared for life after college.
# Liberal arts college graduates are more likely than any other group
to have graduated in four years or less. They also report higher overall
satisfaction with their undergraduate education than graduates of any
other type of college or university.
# Graduates of small, residential liberal arts colleges credit their
undergraduate experience for helping them develop a broad range of skills
important to their everyday lives (problem-solving, making effective
decisions, thinking analytically, writing effectively, relating to people
of different backgrounds and developing new skills). These broad skills
- more than the undergraduate major itself - helped grads get their
first job or gain admission to graduate school, and have continued to
help with career changes or advancement. Annapolis Group alumni say
these skills have remained extremely important in their lives after
# Liberal arts college alumni have strong personal values, and place
importance on a range of activities: contributing to the community,
participating in organizations that help disadvantaged members of society,
promoting racial equality or other social justice issues, using their
best skills and abilities, and having the freedom to consider moral
and ethical aspects of decisions.
Although alumni of Annapolis Group colleges are involved in their communities
at about the same rate as alumni of other types of schools, Annapolis
Group alumni are more likely than other alumni to remain involved with
their schools after graduation.
The Hardwick Day study was based on interviews with 1,571 alumni from
five types of schools: Annapolis Group liberal arts colleges, private
universities, the top 50 public universities (as ranked by U.S. News
& World Report), national flagship public universities and regional
Unlike most previous studies that have surveyed students shortly after
their graduation, the Hardwick Day study surveyed alumni from the Classes
of 1970 through 1995, and tried to assess lasting effects on career
preparation, broad skill development, personal and professional values
and attitudes, community involvement, and overall satisfaction with
The Hardwick Day study drew on Alexander Astin's (UCLA) What Matters
in College: Four Critical Years Revisited, the definitive study of how
students change and develop in college and how colleges can enhance
that development, and the work of education researchers such as Ernest
T. Pascarella and Patrick T. Terenzini on educational effectiveness.
The Hardwick Day survey sought to identify the extent to which the attributes
associated with educational effectiveness are present at various types
of colleges and universities, as reported by their alumni, and the degree
to which these attributes are valued by the alumni themselves.
Posted: December 18, 2002