In Noel-Levitz’s 2010 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report executive summary, college students were asked to rate their overall satisfaction with their institution and if they would re-enroll if they were given the opportunity to do so.
Noel-Levitz conducted numerous studies in 2010 to further understand the behaviors and attitudes of prospective and current students in higher education as they related to student success, student retention, and new student enrollment. Here are some highlights from what we learned:
1. More of today’s freshmen are pursuing two-year degrees
In our 2010 National Freshman Attitudes Report, we found that, in the current economic climate, most freshmen remain motivated to earn a college degree, but more are pursuing two-year programs, consistent with the increased enrollments at two-year institutions nationally.
2. Student satisfaction on two-year public campuses has been rising for four of
the past five years
In our 2010 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report—which offers extensive information on student satisfaction in higher education at four-year and two-year campuses nationwide, public and private—we took a close look at the rising satisfaction levels at community colleges, including which students tend to be most satisfied and some factors that are contributing to the trend.
The 2010 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report is now available.
The year’s report contains results from more than 745,000 students nationwide at more than 1,000 institutions, detailing how satisfied they are with their college experiences, as well as what their top priorities are. The 2010 Executive Summary focuses on the satisfaction levels of community college students and these findings stand out:
- Sixty-nine percent of students at community colleges are likely to say the institution they are attending is their first choice, a key indicator in student satisfaction.
- Students 25 years of age and older are more satisfied than traditional-age students with their experience at community colleges nationally.
- Students cite the quality of instruction and campus climate as strengths for community colleges. They listed academic advising and the availability of classes as challenges.
In recent decades, many campuses have embraced the value of early intervention programs informed through motivational assessment. Assessing the motivations and attitudes of the incoming class helps educators connect incoming students with the most relevant campus resources – a pronounced benefit as enrollments increase at a more intense level than do the accompanying campus resources. Simultaneously, this proactive strategy helps students to acknowledge their own strengths and challenges, while gaining understanding of what is needed to secure a stronger footing as they set out on their journey through college with their goals in mind.
It’s common knowledge that the first term of college is often a transformational experience, which can swing either positively or negatively. And, given the growth and adjustment that occurs during the first term of college, it’s not surprising that attitudes and motivations can shift dramatically over the course of a few months, from the time students first arrive on campus and the end of the first term. In this era of economic uncertainty, these changes may be compounded by the shifts students are experiencing not only personally and academically in college, but also in their family, social, or financial situations.
One of the great pleasures of my job as a retention consultant is the diversity of the campuses I work with: public, private, two-year, four-year, secular, faith-based, single purpose, liberal arts, and so on. Diversity within those institutions is amazing too, from those primarily serving “traditional” students to those serving primarily working adults; some majority male, but most majority female; some with a single race majority, and some with a balance of students from a number of racial backgrounds. Some campuses are in transition from one dominant student profile to another. Perhaps it is my bias, but I think the diversity of our institutions, and the diversity of our student populations is one of the great strengths of higher education in America.
Imagine how disappointed I was, then, when ACE released a report last week that showed that the postsecondary attainment rate for Hispanics and African-Americans aged 25-34 has dipped in comparison to their older peers. At a time when so many are working so hard to foster success among diverse student populations, attainment is slipping. And it’s slipping in spite of evidence from our Noel-Levitz research that African-American and Hispanic students report slightly stronger levels of determination to finish a degree than their White peers. What can we do then to help African-American and Hispanic students be successful in their courses, stay enrolled, and earn a degree?
As the school year kicks off, efforts to quickly engage with students take precedence. It’s easy to embrace this imperative to nurture the path to student success. But there is another imperative high on the priority list. That is, to engage employees who are new to your campus in providing a campus atmosphere that students want to be part of.
With the cost involved in recruiting and hiring quality employees–and the potential cost in replacing them should they decide to leave–many campuses are ratcheting up orientation for their new hires. The term onboarding describes a special, conscious effort to make a new employee quickly become a productive member of the organization.
Planning for Employee Onboarding takes a look at why strategic efforts are needed and elements necessary to the process.
Whether it’s choreographing a scavenger hunt to deliberately get employees familiar with campus logistics and services or a probing discussion around a campfire to bring the campus mission and vision to life, efforts to quickly engage new employees pay long-term dividends.
Download the Planning for Employee Onboarding report from NoelLevitz.com.
What are the elements of your campus orientation program? Are current activities enough to lay the kind of solid foundation necessary to cement a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship?
Helping students find their place and achieve success at a large institution like Concordia University Montreal—with a total student body of more than 40,000 at two locations—presents challenges, points out Marlene Gross, manager of Services for New Students and the Student Success Program Centre. A long-time Concordia staff member, Gross was charged with developing programs that would help students, particularly new ones, become more deeply connected to the university while helping staff members better understand their needs and concerns.
The Student Success Program Centre, created in response to that challenge, is a unit in the Counselling and Development department, which provides service in three critical areas: learning support, counseling, and career services. “The program we developed looks at all of these areas and addresses student needs in a holistic way,” says Gross. The Centre has also served as the launch pad for several student success initiatives for first-year students.
When it comes to assessing student satisfaction, campuses naturally pay a great deal of attention to the assessments themselves: getting students to complete them, analyzing the results, and so on. But communicating those results to students, faculty, and staff is one key step that is sometimes overlooked.
After receiving your annual or biennial satisfaction assessment results, it is important to have a communication plan to share the data with campus personnel and students. Colleges should communicate around areas that are performing well (areas of high priority that demonstrate high student satisfaction) so that everyone can join in the celebration. Colleges will also want to identify the priority areas for improvement and share planned next steps to improve upon the situation.
Communication can also be used to actually improve satisfaction by adjusting students’ perceptions of issues. Sometimes students don’t understand the logic behind campus policies or organization, or they don’t know the broader context. By sharing additional information with students, you can improve satisfaction without investing large amounts of money.
I encourage colleges to have a plan to close the feedback loop with students and with the campus community regarding the actions that have been taken in response to the issues identified in satisfaction assessments. Don’t assume that everyone will know that a change has been made or why it was made. Tell students you care about their experience on your campus and that you have responded to their priority concerns.
I’m realizing I may soon be a helicopter parent. The signs are all there: Regular contact with my teenager by texting and phone calls; the desire to help her navigate through life on the best educational path; and the belief that I know what is best for her. Currently, my daughter is a sophomore in high school, but she has begun her college search process and already, I can feel myself hovering! I want to direct her to particular college Web sites; I want to open the packets of information that come in the mail before she does; I want to begin arranging college visits and suggesting what questions she should be asking. Where is the line between assisting and managing? How much will I keep hovering over the next seven years? How similar am I to the parents of your students?
What are today’s parents thinking?
Like many large institutions, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was a much-surveyed campus community – so much so, in fact, that the proliferation of ad hoc, piecemeal assessments had created a kind of survey fatigue, with few strategic results, says Kelli Parmley, assistant vice provost at VCU’s Center for Institutional Effectiveness. “I was looking for an opportunity to be more strategic at the institutional level with our surveys,” says Parmley, who was also eyeing the institution’s next accreditation process five years out. But it was a pointed question from a board member that spurred VCU to find a more effective approach.