National Survey of Student Engagement

USC Upstate is proud to participate in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) every years. This triannual survey helps the University to understand two important components of students’ college experience: how much time and effort students put into academics and how successful the University is at encouraging students to participate in activities linked to student learning through the  use of its resources, curriculum and learning opportunities. The results show an estimate of how students spend their time, what they gain from attending USC Upstate and how the undergraduate experience can be improved. These results are compared with selected groups of peer institutions as well as hundreds of similar institutions across the country.   

Highlights from the 2016 Survey

The entire freshman class of 1,009 students and the entire senior class of 882 students were sent invitations to participate in the survey. Total respondents to the survey included 170 Freshmen (17%) and 185 Seniors (21%).

Challenging students to do their best work

Both first-year and senior students overwhelmingly reported that their courses challenged them to do their best work. Of the responses, 52% of first-year students and 64% of seniors reported their course to be highly challenging. An additional 44% of first-year students and 35% of senior students reported their coursework to be moderately challenging. These responses are similar to the first group of peer institutions on challenging students to do their best work.

Academic emphasis

Over three quarters of first-year (79%) and senior (86%) respondents indicated that academic emphasis is a key focus at USC Upstate.

High impact practice (HIP) participation
  • Freshman and senior students are participating in high impact practices (like learning communities, service-learning courses, working with a faculty on a research project, internships, study abroad and capstone courses or projects) that are often life changing at a higher rate than both groups of peer institutions and the average institution that participated in the NSSE.
  • Over two thirds of both first-year (67%) and senior students (72%) participated in Service-Learning.  This participation rate exceeds comparison groups for both student levels.
  • Approximately 15% of first-year students and 73% of seniors participated in two or more high impact practices. This response was higher than any of the comparison groups. 

First-year students USC Upstate Peer Institution 1 Peer Institution 1 NSSE 2015 & 2016
Learning Community 12% 11% 12% 15%
Service-Learning 67% 55% 52% 52%
Research with Faculty 6% 8% 6% 5%
Participated in at least one 67% 59% 56% 59%
Participated in two or more 15% 12% 11% 12%


Senior students USC Upstate Peer Institution 1 Peer Institution 1 NSSE 2015 & 2016
Learning Community 29% 21% 22% 24%
Service-Learning 72% 69% 61% 61%
Research with Faculty 21% 31% 21% 24%
Internship or Field Experience 53% 49% 46% 50%
Study Abroad 8% 10% 8% 14%
Culminating Senior Experience 65% 56% 43% 46%
Participated in at least one 67% 59% 56% 59%
Participated in two or more 15% 12% 11% 12%
Perceived gains among seniors

Overwhelmingly, students reported their experiences at USC Upstate contributed to their knowledge, skills and personal development in ten areas. The percentages below represent seniors who resonded “Very Much” or “Quite a bit.”

  • Thinking critically and analytically: 84%
  • Working effectively with others: 79%
  • Writing clearly and effectively: 74%
  • Developing of clarifying a personal code of values and ethics: 7%
  • Understanding people of other backgrounds: 68%
  • Solving complex, real-world problems: 67%
  • Being an informed and active citizen: 64%
  • Analyzing numerical and statistical information: 64%
Satisfaction with USC Upstate

How students assess their experience:

  • 80% of First-year and 88% of Seniors indicated an “Excellent” or “Good” overall experience at USC Upstate (85% for First-year and 85% for Senior at comparison group one institutions).
  • 74% of First-year and 81% of Seniors would “Definitely” or “Probably” attend this institution again (84% for First-year and 80% for Seniors at comparison group one institutions).
Culminating senior experience
  • Seniors (85%) responded that they either have completed a culminating senior experience or plan to do so before graduation.  This result outpaces all comparison groups.
Learning with peers
  • Our senior students report successfully working in teams on group projects at a higher rate than both comparison groups and most institutions who participated in the NSSE.
Campus environment
  • Seniors report USC Upstate provides a supportive environment for learning that is significantly higher than one comparison group of peer institutions.
  • Our low student to faculty ratio has proven to show that our seniors experience significantly higher student-faculty interaction than the average surveyed institution and one comparison group of peer institutions.
  • First-year students indicated an average of 14.3 hours per week on time spent preparing for class.  Additionally, first-year students averaged 6.2 hours weekly reading and writing. These results exceeded comparison group one.