Hope College is one of 18 colleges and universities taking part in a major nationwide study of the impact of liberal arts education.

The multi-year study will explore how students develop during their college years and how key educational experiences promote the development. The study will focus on the class entering college in the fall of 2006, with data collection beginning this spring and continuing at least through 2010.

The project, "The Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education," is being led by the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., with design and implementation taking place in collaboration with researchers from the University of Iowa, Miami University of Ohio, the University of Michigan and ACT Inc.

All student participants will complete a series of surveys that collect information about their in- and out-of-classroom experiences, measuring seven key educational outcomes: leadership, reasoning and problem solving, well-being, moral character, integration of learning, intercultural effectiveness and lifelong learning. In addition, researchers will conduct extensive one-on-one interviews with a subset of students to further investigate their experiences. The research team will also analyze campus programs and resources to determine the degree to which they influence student development.

Hope's participation in the project is being coordinated by Dr. Caroline Simon, who is a professor of philosophy and director of general education at Hope. The college intends to survey approximately one third of the students in the incoming Class of 2010.

A variety of types of colleges and universities are participating in the study, including liberal arts colleges, regional universities, research universities and community colleges. The mix includes private and public universities, and religiously affiliated, single-sex and minority-serving schools that exhibit a breadth of selectivity and tuition costs. The researchers anticipate following approximately 5,500 students through the project.

In addition to Hope, the participating schools are Alma College; Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.; Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind.; Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Columbia College in South Carolina, Connecticut College in New London; Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.; Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.; Ivy Tech Community College-Lafayette in Indiana; Kirkwood Community College in Iowa; San Jose State University in California; the University of Kentucky in Lexington; the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; the University of North Carolina Wilmington; the University of Notre Dame; Wabash College; and Whittier College in California.

The Wabash project is one of two national efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of the liberal arts education in which Hope is participating. Hope is also part of an eight-institution consortium that has received support from the Teagle Foundation Inc. to develop a new way of measuring how well students are learning. The three-year project, which is administered by Hampshire College of Amherst, Mass., and continues through 2008, is focusing on helping liberal arts colleges better determine how their approaches to teaching are affecting students, ultimately so that the schools can do an even better job of teaching.