North Central Self Study
Chapter 1: UNK and the University of Nebraska:
The First Years
Student Learning and Development
Student Quality and Success
UNK students today have better qualitative credentials than a decade ago, and they succeed in their programs (and graduate) at much higher rates as well. ACT scores of entering freshmen have improved significantly since 1991 (21.8 vs. 20.8), and the percentage of students who rank in the top half of their high school classes has improved to over 86% of the entering class (according to ACT-reported data ). Furthermore, freshman enrollments in the Honors Program have reached all-time highs, increasing nearly 150% between 1991 and 2002.
Moreover, UNK's freshman-to-sophomore retention rate has reached all-time highs, at 82.4% for the 2001-2002 cohort (compared to 72.5% in 1990-91). UNK's six-year graduation rate also is at an all time high, at 50% for the 1996-97 entering class (compared to 43.1% ten years earlier). For the last three years, as well, the four-year graduation rate has been rising and is now at an institutional high (20.7% for the 1998-99 entering class, versus 13.6% for the class ten years earlier).
And despite dramatic declines in overall headcount enrollments caused by higher university admissions and academic standards (and other factors), the number of degrees awarded annually compares favorably with those of ten and even twenty or thirty years ago (e.g.: 1,218 in 2000-01 vs. 1,251 in 1990-91, 1,136 in 1984-85, and 1,115 in 1972-73). During the 2002-2003 year, 1,298 undergraduate and graduate degrees were awarded.
Living and Learning Environment
Planners have been increasingly conscious of UNK's role as a residential campus, recognizing that the undergraduate experience extends far beyond the academic curriculum. It includes a range of activities that develop students as "whole" persons who exercise leadership abilities, promote civic consciousness, and develop social and management skills important to success in a diverse society.
1. Cultural Diversity
UNK has endeavored to recruit and retain a diverse and gender-balanced faculty. There have been achievements on both counts, although progress on gender balance has been easier to achieve than has ethnic diversity.
- In Fall 1991, women constituted 27% of our full-time faculty. By 1994 that number was 32% and Fall 2002 it was 40%.
- In Fall 1991, 3.7% of our full-time faculty was non-white. In 1994 that number was 4.5%, and it improved to 8.1% for Fall 2003.
A diverse student body is itself a teaching resource. UNK has made significant strides in this dimension of student life.
- In Fall 1991 nonresidents of Nebraska composed only 4% of our total enrollment. In 1994 that number was 5.8%. In Fall 2003 nonresidents numbered more than 11% of the student body.
- In Fall 1991 international students were but 1.3% of the student body. In 1994 that number was 3%. In Fall 2003 international students accounted for 5.5% of the student body.
- Enrollment of students representing major American minority groups increased 21% between 1991 and 2003 -- a period in which headcount enrollment of white students decreased substantially. Hispanic enrollment has risen markedly (by 65% since 1991), with the influx of many families of Hispanic heritage into central Nebraska communities.
Programmatically, UNK solidified its commitment to diversity in the 1990's.
- An Office of Multicultural Affairs, created in 1997, serves multicultural students and has implemented a wide variety of campus and community programs celebrating cultural diversity.
- The Office of International Education, which serves international students, has also led important initiatives. In 2000 it concluded a formal arrangement that brings 50-60 Japanese students to our campus every year. Since 1991 it has also led the development of 13 exchange agreements with institutions in Russia, Western Europe, South America, and Asia. In 1998 UNK also joined with other major public universities in a consortium that places students in 24 universities throughout Europe.
Finally, the James E. Smith Conference on World Affairs, an annual event that brings to UNK dozens of scholars, diplomats, and citizens from many countries, was revitalized over the last decade. Now sponsored on a rotating basis by the academic colleges, the conference is an important feature of the region's cultural and educational landscape. One of its major attractions, an international food festival, attracts several thousand participants to campus each year.
2. Student Services
UNK established several major programs to assist students in adjusting to university life and in pursuing their academic and personal goals.
- The Office of Student Support Services, a federal TRIO Program, was established in 1993. It provides academic advising, mentoring, and tutoring for nearly two hundred low-income, disabled, or first-generation college students each year.
- The Office of Academic Advising, established in 1997, advises "deciding" students on their academic programs and monitors their progress. It also coordinates efforts between students and advisors in academic departments.
- Residential learning communities have also been established over the last several years to help students adjust to new academic and social requirements at the University. The Honors Program and its dedicated residential facilities is the largest. Others have also been created for first-year students in business and education.
- Additionally (as indicated above), UNK has established a first-year program and is proceeding through pilot and start-up phases.
3. Athletics and Intramurals
Kearney State College was a traditional power in small-college athletics while competing in the NAIA. That success has continued. After joining the University of Nebraska, UNK transitioned into Division II of the NCAA and also became a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 1996. Approximately 400 UNK undergraduate students (7-8% of the undergraduate student body) participate annually in intercollegiate athletics. The program has won the RMAC all-sports trophy every year that UNK has been a member of the conference.
UNK has also increased the resources supporting the campus-wide intramural sports and recreation program. Some resources are derived from new fees dedicated to this activity. Annually 25% of our students (1,546 in 2002-2003) participate in the intramural sports program. Indoor exercise and weight training facilities for both athletes and the general student body have been expanded and improved. Measures of use of these facilities by students, faculty and staff indicate a 50% increase since 1998-1999.