In a series of studies over the last few years, Ruffalo Noel Levitz has documented the link between student satisfaction and several key institutional metrics:
- Retention: Student satisfaction is linked with HIGHER retention based on a 2009 study by Dr. Laurie Schreiner. Student satisfaction accounts for 17 percent of the variation in retention at four-year institutions. A 2015 study by Dr. Karen Miller also revealed a strong correlation between student satisfaction and retention at two-year community colleges.
- Graduation Rates: A 2014 Ruffalo Noel Levitz study reported that overall institutional student satisfaction rates were tied to HIGHER institutional graduation rates in a linear relationship for four-year private institutions, community colleges, and career and private schools. Four-year public institutions also reflected a link that peaked with medium range graduation rates and then declined slightly with the highest graduation rates.
- Alumni Giving: Four-year public and private institutional student satisfaction levels were HIGHER for institutions with greater alumni giving rates, based on a 2015 Ruffalo Noel Levitz study. Satisfaction with campus involvement and individual relationships had the strongest correlation with greater alumni giving levels.
What about Loan Default Rates?
The fourth metric we studied is the link between student satisfaction and loan default rates. As I presented earlier this year at the Association for Institutional Researchers Annual Forum, Ruffalo Noel Levitz conducted an analysis of student satisfaction data at the institutional level for 874 colleges and universities, reflecting more than 507,000 students (surveyed between 2009 and 2012), compared with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid data. This study found that overall satisfaction is tied to LOWER loan default rates in a linear relationship for four-year private institutions with similar indications for four-year public institutions and community colleges. For example, on average, four-year private institutions with the highest student satisfaction scores had lower loan default rates.
The definitions of low, medium, and high default rates in the chart above vary as follows based on the institution type:
When we took a closer look at the data at the four-year private level, it is not surprising that the items we found that had much higher institutional student satisfaction levels at the schools with the lower loan default rates were many of the same items reflected in the graduation rate study. These include (listed in descending order of satisfaction differences between low and high default institutional averages):
- This institution has a good reputation in the community.
- Residence hall staff are concerned about me as an individual.
- I can easily get involved in campus organizations.
- I generally know what is happening on campus.
- There is a commitment to academic excellence on this campus.
- This institution shows concern for students as individuals.
- Faculty care about me as individual.
This research underscores the fact that four-year private colleges and universities that make student satisfaction a priority and are focused on getting students involved and connected with people (residence hall staff, other students, faculty and staff) on campus can see positive outcomes.
Improving these metrics on your campus
Are you tracking these four metrics on your campus?
- Graduation rates
- Alumni giving
- Loan default rates
If you are looking for ways to make improvements with your rates in these areas, one effective route to consider is to monitor student satisfaction levels on the key items tied to each metric. Your campus can move the outcomes needle by assessing student satisfaction on a regular basis, identifying priorities for your campus, partnering with the right departments, and taking action to improve the experiences as well as the perceptions of your students.
I work with hundreds of campuses who administer the Student Satisfaction Inventory each year who are actively working to make a difference for the individual student and the overall institution. Let me know if I can assist your campus with implementing or expanding a satisfaction assessment plan in the academic year ahead. You can reach me at 800.876.1117, ext. 8786 or email Contactus@ruffalonl.com.
National Student Satisfaction Research – Download here
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