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Davis, California

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Survey aims to improve UC education

In 2008, 16 percent of students in the UC system said they chose their major because it was easy.

Twenty-two percent were swayed by parental desire, while close to 50 percent were tempted by the pay and prestige associated with the future profession. Ninety-six percent were interested in the major subject area.

This data was among the results acquired by the University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES) in 2008. Students received this year’s survey in their inbox last month, along with an e-mail from Chancellor Linda Katehi.

“As Chancellor, I am concerned that all undergraduates at UC Davis have an opportunity for the best educational experience possible,” the email read. “The UCUES is [students’] opportunity to provide the campus with critical information about [their] undergraduate experience.”

The biannual survey, conducted by UC faculty and research professionals, helps researchers discover everything from UC academic atmospheres to student behaviors and attitudes, such as study habits and goals. The UCUES amended its survey this year to include demographic information. Researchers hope the new information will reveal how the economy has affected student lives and retention rates.

When conducted in spring 2008, the UCUES was administered electronically to all 162,259 undergraduates across the nine general UC campuses. Of those undergraduates who received the survey, 31.4 percent campus responded, said Sabrina Sencil, the student affairs research analyst and UC Davis UCUES coordinator in an e-mail interview.

In an attempt to recruit more students to take the survey this year, the UCUES is being administered earlier in the quarter. Upon participating in the survey, students also become eligible to win prizes. The sooner the student participates, the better, because drawings are made after each survey announcement e-mail. Among the larger prizes is a $500 gift card for Amazon and a Kaplan preparatory test of the individual’s choice.

The response rate seven days after the first email alert was 22 percent.

Various academic programs use the data to review the education they provide. The data will be sent to units such as the Office of the Vice Chancellor, Campus Community Relations, the Academic Senate Committee and student support services like the Women’s Resource and Research Center. With regard to mental health, some information is sent to Counseling and Psychological Services.

“The research ultimately benefits the students,” Sencil said. “All of these [units] are interested in the wellness and success of UC Davis’ students.”

This survey also aids in the decision-making process on student services as well as long-term planning for the UC system.

The information gathered from UCUES may prove especially useful as the UC system adjusts to the waves of budget cuts. A recent New York Times article highlighted research conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, which claims that in 2025, California will have a million fewer graduates than the economy will require.

The report calls for a 1.6 billion dollar expansion annually in order to meet the future needs of the state, as well as larger incoming classes.

“The UC system should welcome the top 15 percent of the state’s high school graduates … Currently, the top 12.5 percent of high school graduates are eligible for a UC,” the article states.

SHAWNA ALPDEMIR can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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