John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

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Second National Survey of First-Year Academic Practices, 2002

Administered by the Policy Center on the First Year of College
(now Gardner Institute)
(supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies & The Pew Charitable Trusts)

Betsy O. Barefoot, EdD
Principal Investigator

The 2002 survey was designed to complement and expand the Policy Center’s (now Gardner Institute) 2000 National Surveys of First-Year Curricular and Co-curricular Practices. Taken together, data from these survey initiatives paint a comprehensive picture of first-year policies, procedures, and programs at institutions across the US. These data can be used by institutions as a means of comparing institution-specific information with national trends. It is important to note, however, that the data, which are descriptive of first-year initiatives in the years 2000 – 2002, are not intended to be prescriptive or to identify “best practice” in any area of the first year.

In August of 2002, the Second National Survey was successfully transmitted electronically to 1,867 chief academic officers at both two- and four-year institutions that met the following characteristics: regional accreditation by one of the six regional accrediting bodies in the US, size of over 250 students; presence of first-year students, and finally, correct and available e-mail addresses for the chief academic officer. Of the 1,867 surveys successfully transmitted, 1,000 responses were received for an overall response rate of 54%.

Successful transmissions and response rates for each Carnegie category are as follows:

Associates Colleges 728 transmissions, 352 responses (48%)
Baccalaureate General Colleges 260 transmissions, 150 responses (58%)
Baccalaureate Liberal Arts Colleges 188 transmissions, 112 responses (60%)
Masters I & II Institutions 478 transmissions, 266 responses (56%)
Research Intensive Universities 89 transmissions, 47 responses (53%)
Research Extensive Universities 124 transmissions, 73 responses (59%)

Click here to view a list of the 1,000 responding institutions.

Click here for 2002 National Survey of First-Year Academic Practices Findings

The primary means of data analysis used in this research is by Carnegie classification, using the Year 2000 Carnegie classification system. This system divides American colleges and universities into seven primary categories: Associate Degree Institutions, Baccalaureate-General Institutions, Baccalaureate-Liberal Arts Institutions, Masters I and Masters II institutions, Doctoral/Research Intensive and Doctoral Research/Extensive Institutions. In this data analysis, we have collapsed the Masters I and II categories into one single category. The Carnegie classification system also identifies a small number of “special-purpose” institutions, such as tribal colleges, engineering colleges, teachers colleges, business and management colleges, and faith-related institutions, which because of their small numbers, were, for purposes of this research, collapsed into one of the seven major categories.

Of the 25 questions on the 2002 Second National Survey, two questions are repeated from the similar survey in Year 2000. Some of the 23 remaining questions relate to Year 2000 questions and provide more detailed and targeted analysis; others investigate new topics altogether.

2000 National Survey of First-Year Curricular and Co-Curricular Practices


As one of its initial research projects, the Policy Center on the First Year of College (now Gardner Institute) conducted national surveys of first-year structures, policies, and practices in the collegiate curriculum and co-curriculum. Hyperlinks to two separate survey instruments were embedded in e-mail messages sent to chief academic officers and chief student affairs officers at 621 two- and four-year colleges and universities. The instruments asked a broad range of questions, and responses to these questions have been analyzed by institutional size, type (2-year and 4-year), and Carnegie classification (2000 edition). The survey instruments were designed by Policy Center staff members, Dr. Betsy Barefoot (principle investigator), Dr. Randy Swing, and John N. Gardner, with input from a nationally known team of educational research experts and first-year program directors.

This national survey is not intended to be diagnostic or prescriptive. It does not, in and of itself, paint a picture of “best practice.” Rather it reveals common practice, for better or worse, in the first college year across the curriculum and the co-curriculum. Some responses are consistent with anecdotal evidence about the first year, but other responses are in direct conflict with some widely held beliefs about what happens to first-year students in and out of the classroom.

Survey Instruments

Web-based Curricular Survey

Web-based Co-Curricular Survey


The following links will direct interested readers to findings in various formats derived from the survey responses.

About the Sample

621 institutions, stratified by Carnegie classification, were in the original random sample population. Hyperlinks to the survey instruments (curricular and co-curricular) were embedded in e-mail messages.The hyperlink to the curricular survey was sent successfully to 586 chief academic officers.The hyperlink to the co-curricular survey was sent successfully to 568 chief student affairs officers

Curricular Survey: 586 transmissions, 323 responses (54.7%)

Co-Curricular Survey: 568 transmissions, 291 responses (51%)

View Curricular Respondents

View Co-Curricular Respondents

Comparison of Survey and Response Populations by Institutional Type and Size

Curricular responses by institutional type

Survey population
(n = 586)

Response population
(n = 323)


235 (40.1%)

116 (35.9%)


351 (59.9%)

203 (62.8%)

Unknow type


Curricular responses by institutional size


177 (30.0%)

102 (31.6%

2,000 – 4,999

197 (33.6%)

106 (32.8%)

5,000 – 14,999

144 (24.6%)

78 (24.1%)

15,000 or more

68 (11.6%)

33 (10.2%)

Unknown size


Curricular responses by Carnegie classification


see “Two-year” above

see “Two-year” above


72 (12.2%)

38 (11.7%)


54 (9.2%)

34 (10.5%)

Masters I & II

153 (26.1%)

90 (27.9%)

Research Intensive

27 (4.6%)

15 (4.6%)

Research Extensive

38 (6.4%)

22 (6.8%)




Co-Curricular responses by institutional type

Survey population
(n = 568)

Response population
(n = 291)


234 (41.2%)

106 (36.4%)


334 (58.8%)

179 (61.5%)



Co-Curricular responses by institutional size


173 (30.4%)

90 (30.9%)

2,000 – 4,999

196 (34.5%)

94 (32.3%)

5,000 – 14,999

137 (24.1%)

71 (24.3%)

Unknown size

62 (10.9%)

30 (10.3%)


Co-Curricular responses by Carnegie classification

AA see “Two-year” above see “Two-year” above
BA-Gen 69 (12%) 34 (11.6%)
BA-LA 53 (9.3%) 30 (10.3%)
Masters I & II 144 (25.3%) 76 (26.1%)
Research Intensive 25 (4.4%) 13 (4.4%)
Research Extensive 37 (6.5%) 23 (7.9%)
Unknown 6