June 27, 2007

Class of 2000 gives its alma mater high marks

by Tim Crosby


CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Class of 2000 is doing quite well, and many of those Salukis credit their alma mater with making that possible.

Those findings are included in the University's annual Baccalaureate Follow-up Survey, which queries bachelor's degree recipients on their status and attitudes toward SIUC. Illinois Board of Higher Education policy requires all state public universities to track alumni at the one-year, five-year and nine-year mark following graduation.

The policy is aimed at improving workforce preparation and provides important feedback for colleges and universities. It must include questions regarding whether graduates find jobs, whether they find jobs related to their major, whether they pursue further education and whether they are satisfied with their college undergraduate experience.

SIUC's survey evolved to include further, more detailed information, which the University uses as guideline for improving services and education on campus.

The most recent survey sought out those who received their undergraduate degrees during the 2000 calendar year. The University sent out 4,069 surveys, receiving 960 responses for a 24 percent response rate.

Of those responding, 87 percent indicated they had attained full-time employment and the median annual income level for those graduates was $50,000. SIUC officials compiling the survey used the median salary, which differs from the mean or average amount, because some extreme salary values reported by the respondents would skew the results.

Almost 80 percent of the respondents reported a "strongly positive" or "positive" attitude toward the University, while 94 percent gave high marks to faculty communication skills in their major departments. Ninety percent of respondents rated faculty within their major as "very good" or "good."

SIUC officials said the survey results showed the value of the University in the lives of its graduates.

"We are pleased to see that our recent graduates, similar to those who have gone before them, value and recognize that they have received an outstanding education at one of the nation's leading institutions," said John M. Dunn, interim chancellor at SIUC.

The vast majority of students who took their core academic courses at SIUC — 78 percent to 92 percent — stated the classes helped them develop a variety of important skills, including writing ability, reading and reasoning skills, the ability to view problems from different perspectives, responsible and ethical citizenship and appreciation of other cultures. The same proportions also credited the classes with sparking interests beyond their major and interest in personal, social and environmental health.

Within their major, respondents reported 84 percent to 95 percent satisfaction level with several aspects of their education. Those included improvements in their ability to write more clearly and effectively, the balance between theoretical and practical aspects of coursework, critical thinking abilities and the applicable nature of the skills learned to their fields. A full 94 percent said they were satisfied with the extent to which faculty challenged them and 95 percent reported class size was conducive to a quality educational experience.

Dunn said the alumni are a key audience to which the University must listen.

"It is especially nice to note that graduates acknowledge the value of the core curriculum as well as the obvious benefit of courses in their major area of study, and that they appreciate SIUC's commitment to small class sizes," he said.