Student Achievement at Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University seeks to provide challenging and supportive education experiences that prepare students to be leaders in their professions and in the state and nation. This goal builds on our historic emphasis on access, academic excellence, and student success. To evaluate the extent to which our students are achieving this goal, Mississippi State uses measures such as student learning outcomes assessment with data from national exams and surveys, retention and graduation rates, job and graduate-school placement rates, and licensure passage rates.

Our student achievement outcomes relate to the institution's strategic plan. All five institutional goals have at least one outcome related to student achievement, starting with the first goal’s emphasis on teaching and learning and ending with the fifth goal’s outcomes for retention, and graduation. It is important to note that these goals represent what can be measured at the university-level, while more program-specific achievements, efforts, and data are explored through the annual institutional effectiveness process. Details about the common instruments used appear at the end of this page.

Click on each box to expand the narrative and to see the associated data.

The first goal and outcome pair seeks to produce MSU graduates who have obtained the specific learning outcomes for their chosen field. Although these outcomes must be measured at the program level, they also include state and professional licensure and examinations, which are shared publicly.

Praxis II Success Rates: The College of Education uses Praxis II success rates as a measure of student achievement. Students at all locations and in all modalities are included in these results. The College’s accrediting body, CAEP formerly NCATE, requires that member institutions maintain a pass rate of 80% or better, which is the minimum threshold for achievement. MSU’s target is to stay at or above the statewide pass rates.

Table 1. Praxis II Success Rates

 

Number taking the test Number passing assessment Institutional Pass Rate Statewide Pass Rate
2015-2016 228 215 94% 93%
2016-2017 245 228 93% 92%
2017-2018 233 218 94% 92%

Architecture Licensure Exam Results: The School of Architecture performs strongly in this licensure exam. This department focuses on seven areas within the licensure exam, which are closely related to specific courses in the Architecture program. All results are shared with the Architecture faculty in general, and course modifications seek to improve any low scores. MSU wants the majority of students to pass all areas of the exam; therefore, 50% is the minimum threshold of achievement. The school’s target is at or above the national average.

Table 2. Architecture Licensure Exam Results

 

2017 2018
MSU National MSU National
Construction & Evaluation 83% 61% 67% 70%
Practice Management 47% 50% 47% 51%
Programming & Analysis 73% 53% 67% 53%
Project Development & Documentation 72% 56% 54% 53%
Project Management 88% 59% 64% 62%
Project Planning & Design 73% 50% 51% 46%

Board of Registered Foresters Exam: Forestry graduates of the College of Forest Resources (CFR) who want to practice forestry in the state of Mississippi must pass the Mississippi Board of Registered Foresters' Exam. The department has set a minimum threshold for achievement at 70% passing with a target of 75%. The program faculty have identified the students’ strengths and weaknesses and have steadily revised the curriculum to improve mastery in these areas.

Table 3. Board of Registered Foresters Exam Results

Year
Students Taking Exams Students Passing Exams Percent Passing
2014 29 21 72.4%
2015 30 19 70.7%
2016 28 17 60.7%
2017 33 27 81.8%

Veterinary Licensing Examination: The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine uses the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination at the time of graduation as one measure of success. MSU strives to meet or exceed the average pass rate of a criterion group of peer institutions, which is its target of 98%. The lowest pass rate it has ever had was in 2009 at 89.4%; therefore, it has set 90% as its minimum threshold of achievement.

Table 4. North American Veterinary Licensing Exam Results

Year
Students Taking Exam(s) Students Passing Exam(s) Percent Passing Target
2015 79 78 99% 98%
2016 83 82 99% 98%
2017 81 80 99% 98%
2018 82 79 96% 98%
2019 91 90 99% 98%

What happens to MSU students once they graduate is very important to the university. Career management pertains to connecting collegiate and professional experience to career goals and to identifying areas for improvement or professional growth. Following the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) guidelines, the institution tracks employment and graduate school enrollment data by college to indicate what percentage of graduates have begun their careers six months after they graduate from the university.

The institution has variable thresholds and targets for its colleges’ career data rates. For colleges focused on professions, the institution has set 75% for the minimum threshold of achievement and 85% as the target. These fields generally have high expectations for placement rates within six months after graduation. Generally, graduates from the College of Forest Resources have similar rates and are likely to obtain employment with federal agencies. At the time of this survey, many federal agencies were in hiring freezes, which affected the data for the 2017-18 year. The College of Arts & Sciences has different expectations for six months after graduation versus one year after graduation. Frequently, these graduates enroll in graduate programs to continue their education, but because many begin graduate school on a traditional academic calendar, these decisions have not always been made at the time of the survey. Finally, the College of Veterinary Medicine includes the only first-professional school at MSU. The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) is one of only a few programs within the U.S. that, like most colleges of human medicine, requires two full years of mentored clinical education. DVM graduates are highly sought after; therefore, the College of Veterinary Medicine has a much higher expectation for employment than the primarily undergraduate programs. For this reason, its minimum threshold is 95% and its target is 100%.

Table 5. Results from the 2017-18 first destination survey six months after graduation.
College Threshold Percent employed or continuing education Percent seeking employment Target
College of Agriculture & Life Sciences 75 84% 16% 85
College of Architecture, Art & Design 80 88% 12% 90
College of Arts & Sciences 65 76% 24% 75
Bagley College of Engineering 75 84% 16% 85
College of Business 75 82% 18% 85
College of Education 75 80% 20% 85
College of Forest Resources 75 75% 25% 85
College of Veterinary Medicine 95 100% 0% 100

Note: Knowledge of career status for 76% of graduates. Percent employed or continuing education includes serving in the U.S. military, participating in service or volunteer program, and planning to continue education but not yet enrolled.

The Career Center has noticed stronger outcomes for students who participate in experiential learning programs; therefore, it has made a concerted effort to expand its co-operative education and internship offerings. During 2018-19, the Career Center had a total of 806 students in a formal co-op or internship for seven out of eight colleges (Note: The College of Veterinary Medicine offers clinical rotations instead of co-ops and internships). Not all academic programs connect their internships or field experiences with the Career Center, so the institution uses the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to determine what proportion of the seniors have “Done or in progress” or “Plan to do” an internship before they graduate. The university compares its data to those of its Carnegie R1 and R2 peers that complete the survey. Our historic low is the minimum threshold for achievement, and the Carnegie peer scores serve as the target.

Table 6. Percentage of seniors indicating that they have "Done or in progress" or "Plan to do" an internship, co-op, field experience, student teaching, or clinical placement
  Threshold 2013 2014 2016 2018 2019 Target

Internships, etc.

69% 69% 74% 72% 75% 73% 76%

The ability to communicate one's ideas in oral and written forms is of utmost importance for college graduates. This skill is a common preferred quality in job descriptions across the institution's many fields of study.

Writing has been an area of focus for the university. Starting in 2014-15, MSU took on writing as its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The university has seen some improvement toward this outcome based on its own faculty-developed rubric, which is described in more detail in the Impact Report. However, the university measures its overall success with student writing using the ETS Proficiency Profile exam, which is a standardized test administered to first-year and senior students each spring. The writing section of the exam measures the students’ knowledge of grammar, language organization, and figurative language. Exam results indicate what percentage of students score at proficient, marginally proficient, and not proficient within three levels of understanding:

  • Level 1: recognize grammar and word usage
  • Level 2: build upon simple components of writing and incorporate those simple components into more complex sentence structures
  • Level 3: recognize how complex sentences work together for parallelism, idiomatic language, correct constructions, and reduction in redundancy.

The results of this exam are benchmarked against our Carnegie R1 and R2 peers. During 2009-2013, the institution performed lower than our peers, and the peer scores at the time become the target. After the implementation of the QEP, MSU’s writing scores are now higher than our Carnegie peers. The 2017 peer average is now the threshold of minimum achievement.  

Table 7. Percentage of MSU seniors scoring proficient in each writing level on the ETS Proficiency Profile Exam
  Threshold 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 Target

Level 1

72% 75.8% 78.5% 76.8% 74.0% 74.7% 75.8% 82%

Level 2

28% 30.4% 31.0% 33.7% 30.4% 29.6% 30.4% 36%

Level 3

16% 17.4% 18.7% 19.9% 17.4% 18.1% 17.4% 18%

Quantitative literacy is a strength at MSU as evidenced by several university-level metrics, including the ETS Proficiency Profile Exam and the NSSE.

The university compares its data to those of its Carnegie R1 and R2 peers that complete these instruments. Our historic low is the minimum threshold for achievement, and the Carnegie peer scores serve as the target.

Table 8. ETS Proficiency Profile Exam Results
  Threshold 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 Target
Math scaled score 115.5 115.5 115.8 116 115.6 116.2 116.9 116.2 115.7
Natural Sciences scaled score 116.1 116.8 117.1 117 116.7 117 116.8 116.1 116.7

 

Table 9. NSSE Engagement Indicator Results
  Threshold 2013 2014 2016 2018 2019 Target
Quantitative Reasoning 29.0 31.1 29.7 31.5 29.0 30.3 30.7

MSU’s emphasis on discovery, innovation, and creativity is reflected in its status as a doctoral-granting institution with very high research activity. This outcome seeks to contribute new knowledge in research and scholarship for students, faculty, and staff. MSU’s graduate student exit survey along with high-impact practices from the NSSE survey inform scholarly or scientific inquiry at the university level.

Questions related to graduate students' participation in peer-refereed activity used to be collected only at the unit level, but they were added to the Graduate Exit Survey for the 2017-18 year. The first year serves as the baseline and is the minimum threshold for achievement as the institution hopes to continue tracking this measure and increasing its results. The target was established as 10% increase over the baseline year.

Table 10. Graduate Student Exit Survey Results
Percentage of students participating in peer-refereed activity 2017-18 2018-19 Target
Graduates who made one or more presentations at international conferences 20.7%
(172 / 827)
21.8%
(178 / 814)
23%
Graduates who submitted one or more journal articles 30.5%
(253 / 827)
32.1%
(262 / 814)
34%
Graduates who had one or more articles accepted 22.1%
(183 / 827)
19.4%
(158 / 814)
24%
Graduates who submitted one or more grants 14.1%
(117 / 827)
14.0%
(114 / 814)
16%
Graduates who were awarded one or more grants 11.7%
(97 / 827)
11.4%
(93 / 814)
13%

 

Additionally, the NSSE asks senior students to respond to whether they have worked with faculty members on a research project or have engaged in a culminating senior experience, such as a capstone course, senior project or thesis, comprehensive exam, or portfolio. MSU tracks the percentage of students who responded "Done or in progress" or "Plan to do" to these questions. Our historic low is the minimum threshold for achievement, and the Carnegie peer scores serve as the target.

Table 11. Percentage of student participating in NSSE High-Impact Practices

NSSE High-Impact Practice
Threshold 2013 2014 2016 2018 2019 Target
Culminating senior experience 59% 59% 61% 63% 59% 62% 70%
Work with a faculty member on a research project 30% 32% 34% 34% 38% 33% 40%

MSU values its Land-grant tradition and engages with communities and businesses through non-formal education and technical assistance. The entire MSU community is encouraged to participate in service and humanitarian activities. The Center for Community Engagement has developed a robust service-learning program for our undergraduate students, which contributed to MSU’s Carnegie Community Engagement designation.

The NSSE considers service-learning and community-based projects as a high-impact practice. MSU consistently scores higher than our Carnegie peers in this metric, and their average score serves as our minimum threshold of achievement. Our target is a 10% increase over our highest score.

Table 12. Percentage of students engaged in NSSE High-Impact Practices
NSSE High-Impact Practices Threshold 2013 2014 2016 2018 2019 Target
Service-Learning courses or community-based project 10% 8% not available 11% not available 12% 13.2%

As the world becomes increasingly more connected, MSU seeks to provide students with diverse and global experiences. The outcome recognizes the importance of critical thinking and perspective-taking.

The university uses both the ETS Proficiency Profile exam and the NSSE survey to measure progress on this outcome. Our historic low is the minimum threshold for achievement, and the Carnegie peer scores serve as the target.

Table 13. ETS Proficiency Profile Exam results related to diverse perspectives

 

Threshold 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 Target
Critical Thinking scaled score 113.1 113.1 113.3 113.7 113.2 113.1 113.7 112.7 113.4
Social Sciences scaled score 114.3 114.6 114.6 115 114.3 114.3 114.9 114.6 115

Table 14. NSSE Engagement Indicator related to diverse perspectives
  Threshold 2013 2014 2016 2018 2019 Target
Reflective and Integrative Learning 34.0 35.7 36.2 35.8 35.0 34.9 37.1

Other metrics are informed by the percentage of students who responded "Done or in progress" for these NSSE High-Impact Practices results.

Table 15. Percentage of students engaged in NSSE High-Impact Practices related to diverse perspectives
Threshold 2013 2014 2016 2018 2019 Target
Study Abroad 3% 7% 5% 10% 11.6% 13% 15%

Another aspect related to the goal of encouraging diverse and global perspectives is the ability to work in teams and serve as leaders when necessary.

The results of the NSSE survey address the university-wide measures for Collaboration. MSU performs well in comparison to our peers, and for these cases, the Carnegie peers are the minimum threshold of achievement while our target is 1% higher than our highest score.

Table 16. NSSE Engagement Indicators for Collaboration

 

Threshold

2013

2014

2016

2018

2019

Target

Collaborative learning

33.8

34.3

34.4

36.3

36.7

35.7

37.0

Discussions with diverse others

40.7

41.9

41.0

41.6

40.0

41.4

42.3

 

Table 17. Percentage of seniors who have participated in activities related to Collaboration

Threshold

2013

2014

2016

2018

2019

Target

Participated in a learning community

22%

25%

24%

22%

22%

23%

25%

MSU’s goal to enhance the institutional culture and environment represents a commitment to provide all members of the Mississippi State University community with the resources to achieve their professional and personal goals in an environment that reflects MSU values.

The university is committed to its mission “to provide access and opportunity to…diverse populations.” Based on its ratio of Pell Grant students within the student body, the U.S. News and World Reports Best Colleges ranking system estimates that MSU’s graduation rate could be as high as 62%. This is the institution’s target for graduation rate. The university’s highest historic retention rate is 83.1%, which is the institutions’ retention target. MSU's retention and graduation rates have consistently been the highest or second highest in the State of Mississippi for public Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). The system averages for retention and graduation are the minimum threshold of achievement.

Student Success

MSU has a goal to enhance the institutional culture and environment represents a commitment to provide all members of the Mississippi State University community with the resources to achieve their professional and personal goals in an environment that reflects the university's values. A prominent goal for our students is to persist through their education and ultimately obtain the credential they seek. The Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness at MSU calculates retention and graduation rates, and these rates are reported annually on a volunteer basis to The Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange (CSRDE) through the University of Oklahoma. Additionally, MSU participates in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) through National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). MSU's retention and graduation rates have consistently been the highest or second highest in the State of Mississippi for public Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). The system averages for retention and graduation are the minimum threshold of achievement.

Retention Rates

The retention rate measures the percentage of full-time, first-time degree-seeking undergraduate students enrolled in a fall or summer term who returned the following fall term.

Cohort start date IHL Retention Rate Retention Rate
2010 77.0% 83.1%
2011 77.4% 80.7%
2012 77.3% 78.5%
2013 79.0% 80.2%
2014 80.0% 82.0%
2015 78.3% 80.2%
2016 76.7% 79.3%
2017   79.8%

 

Graduation Rates

The percentage of students who graduated within six years of their initial term as a full-time, first-time degree-seeking undergraduate student.


Cohort start date IHL Graduation Rate Graduation Rate
2005 49.7% 60.2%
2006 50.0% 57.8%
2007 50.2% 61.1%
2008 52.4% 60.4%
2009 52.1% 60.0%
2010 51.3% 59.9%
2011   57.9%
2012   58.4%

 

University-level instruments

For university-level measures, the institution uses two primary instruments: the ETS Proficiency Profile Exam and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Both of these instruments are benchmarked against our Carnegie R1 and R2 peers, and both are administered to first-year and senior students every fall and spring.

ETS Proficiency Profile Exam: This exam is a 36-question standardized test that measures students’ proficiencies in critical thinking, reading, writing, and mathematics. Results for these four skill areas are measured by the percentage of students who are proficient, marginally proficient, and not proficient. Additionally, the raw scores are calculated on a scale by counting the number of questions the student answered correctly. ETS then converts the raw scores to a scaled score for critical thinking, reading, writing, and mathematics. Based on how students respond to these skill questions, ETS derives a context-based score for humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The scaled scores generally serve as the measures the institution uses to evaluate these outcomes.

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE): This survey asks students to consider their engagement at MSU in terms of how they spend their time and how well the institution uses its resources to enhance student learning. Responses to the questions are indexed to form a composite score across ten engagement indicators, which NSSE created from the literature on best practices for enhancing the learning environment. Furthermore, NSSE identifies six high-impact practices that enhance a student's learning experience. Many of these engagement indicators and high-impact practices have been used to inform the institution’s progress toward attaining its student learning outcomes.

 

Last Updated: August 26, 2019