If your know much about North Carolina’s 16 public universities, you might know that Chapel Hill often wins a spot in “best college” ranking. N.C. State turns out the most engineers and scientists. And budding dancers and musicians aspire to study at the N.C. School of the Arts.
But where are students most satisfied with their education?
The answer may surprise you: UNC Pembroke.
Founded as a school for Lumbee Indians, UNC Pembroke has quietly educated students in the sandhills of Southeastern North Carolina for more than a century.
With an enrollment of about 3,000, it’s not the biggest campus. It doesn’t have the highest SATs. And the off-campus social scene is virtually nonexistent. But Pembroke students seem happiest with their education, according to the university system’s first full-fledged survey of student satisfaction.
The university system quizzed more than 16,000 sophomores and graduating seniors last year, asking them to rate their college experience in a variety of areas, including quality of professors, advising, food service.
At Pembroke, 96.3 percent of seniors rated their overall education as “good or excellent” – the highest percentage of any campus.
Pembroke also had the highest percentage of seniors rating academic advising “good or excellent.” And the highest rating for faculty and instruction. Also for career counseling and employment search assistance.
Why such glowing reviews? Credit the close-knit atmosphere and small classes, students and administrators say.
Pembroke’s average class size is around 25 students, so it’s easy for students to get to know their professors. “They give you individual attention if your need it. Being a small campus, they can be that way,” said Orvil White, an adult student who graduated last month.
White sat in an aisle seat for graduation, and “probably half the faculty who went by spike to me by name and said congratulations,” he says.
Of all N.C. campuses, Pembroke also had the most seniors – 97 percent – who said the school contributed “somewhat” or “very much” to their ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds.
That statistic pleases (former) Chancellor Joe Oxendine, who believes students benefit from Pembroke’s unique racial mix. Located about 30 miles from Fayetteville, the school is the state’s most racially diverse university, with an enrollment that’s 59 percent white, 25 percent Native American and 13 percent African American.
Recently, the university system posted the student survey results from all campuses on the Web.
Many Pembroke supporters say the recognition is overdue. “I know it’s a great education. It’s a great school,” says former student body president Benjamin Gersh, who graduated in May. “This gives some credibility to what we’ve been saying.”
And now, Pembroke officials hope the survey will help attract students. Under the university system’s new plan to accommodate an expected flood of students in the next decade, Pembroke is slated to grow by 40 percent.
But don’t expect billboards announcing that Pembroke students are more stisfied with their education that their counterparts at Chapel Hill.
“There’s a real pride in these survey results,” says Pembroke’s (former) interim vice chancellor for development and university relations. “But I think there’s an appropriate reservation about ever getting into competition with our sister schools.”
In survey, student satisfaction ratings are highest on UNC Pembroke campus
Overall evaluation of education: Highest percentage saying “good or excellent”: Pembroke (96.3) Lowest percentage: Elizabeth City State University (80.8)
Intellectual environment is strong or very strong: Highest percentage saying “good or excellent”: UNC Asheville (83.1) Lowest: Elizabeth City State University (29.2)
General evaluation of faculty based on eight measures: Highest percentage saying “good or excellent”: Pembroke (96.7) Lowest: N.C. A&T University
Quality of instruction in major: Highest percentage saying “good or excellent”: Pembroke ( 97.1) Lowest: N.C. School of the Arts
Overall quality of instruction: Highest percentage saying “good or excellent”: Pembroke (96.6) Lowest: N.C. A&T State
Overall evaluation of technology (computer) services: Highest percentage saying “good or excellent”: Chapel Hill (91) Lowest: N.C. School of the Arts (46.7)
Overall evaluation of Library services: Highest percentage saying “good or excellent”: Chapel Hill (95.9) Lowest: N.C. Central University
Overall evaluation of academic advising: Highest percentage saying “good or excellent”: UNC Pembroke (89.4) Lowest: Chapel Hill (51.1)
If your could start again, would you choose this school? Highest percentage saying “yes”: Chapel Hill (84.5) Highest percentage saying “no”: Appalachain State (18.5)
UNC Chapel Hill students had the most gripes, with 77.7 percent saying they’d taken at least one class too large. (source: UNC General Administration)