Administrators' knowledge and perceptions of the first-year experience program at a Southeastern research extensive institution

Patricia Maureen Curley

Abstract

This study investigated administrators' perceptions about the Freshman Year Experience (FYE) program. Directly influencing student recruitment and retention, the FYE has significant implications for administrators in all areas of the university. Unlike previous investigations of FYE programs which have concentrated on curricula and student needs, the current study examined what administrators thought were the most important issues the FYE raised for them and which parts of the program they believed were most successful and which may have required revision or expansion. Additionally, this study sought to determine if there were differences in perceptions of the FYE between and among administrators from different institutional units--Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, Athletics, and Budgetary. A 30-question instrument was sent to 137 administrators, with a response rate of 63%, to test four hypotheses on area of supervision, gender, experience, and involvement in the program. The results of the study indicated that there were no differences in perceptions based on gender but that there were significant differences in the perception of the programs by administrators from Academic Affairs as opposed to those in Student Affairs. Student Affairs administrators and Budgetary administrators viewed the FYE more favorably than did administrators in Athletics or Academic Affairs. There were also significant differences in the perception of the program by years of experience. The more years of experience an administrator had, the greater the administrators' perceptions of the FYE program. Based upon these administrators' responses, the study concluded with key recommendations: (a) more publicity should go to promote the FYE both within and outside of the university, especially via the Web site; (b) the FYE would profit from collaboration among various administrative groups in any revision of the FYE; (c) the current practice of offering both audience specific and general sections of University 101 should be continued to give students choices as well as to meet the increasing needs of transfer and nontraditional students; (d) University 101 may need to be changed from a 2-credit hour course to a 3-credit hour course to reflect its growing importance; and (e) this study should be replicated at other Mississippi universities so that administrators can share data leading to more effective FYEs statewide.