Over 220 students walked the aisle and accepted their diploma from USC Aiken last Thursday, and most had a good experience earning it over their years at the school.

Each year, the National Survey of Student Engagement asks first year and senior students at hundreds of colleges and universities to reflect on the nature and quality of their collegiate experiences. The topics explored are linked to previous research on student engagement and academic success.

At USCA, 42 percent of students invited to participate in the survey responded, compared to a national response rate of 25 percent in the 2012 NSSE survey. In total, 497 USCA students participated in the survey.

According to Dr. Sandra Jordan, chancellor, results from this survey help focus discussions on student engagement and guide institutional improvement efforts. Responses collected from USCA students are compared to national and regional responses to identify the areas in which the University excels and those areas in need of attention.

To assist in comparisons, NSSE clusters many of the questions into five benchmark groups: academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences and supportive campus environment.

Nearly 90 percent (88) of first-year students feel that USCA places substantial emphasis on academics. Sixty-three percent of students frequently work harder than they thought they could to meet the facultyís high standards and 56 percent reported that their exams strongly challenge them to do their best work.

By spring of their senior year, 56 percent of students said they participate in some sort of practicum, internship, field experience, co-op or clinical assignment. Fifty-three percent of students said they frequently discuss readings or ideas from courses outside of the classroom.

At USCA, 76 percent of students said the faculty is available, helpful and sympathetic, and by spring of their senior year, 18 percent of students do research with a faculty member. Eighty-nine percent of seniors at least occasionally discuss their career plans with faculty.

By the time they are seniors, 62 percent of students said they participate in community service or volunteer work and 60 percent of students frequently have serious conversations with those of a different race or ethnicity.

Eighty-five percent of students reported their peers are friendly, supportive and give them a sense of belonging. Ninety one percent of the students rated their experience as good or excellent, with 85 percent of seniors saying they would choose USCA again if they could start their college career over again.