Does your campus fully utilize its student satisfaction scores at accreditation time? As a reminder, regular assessments of student satisfaction provide data for four key institutional activities:
• Retention/student success
• Strategic planning
• Recruiting new students
• Accreditation documentation
The accreditation process can be time-demanding and stressful for your campus staff and leadership, yet is essential to complete and pass. And while the official process is something you address once every decade, regularly gathering data from your students and maintaining proactive processes can make the actual, official requirements go much more smoothly.
My colleague Charles Schroeder likes to say that during self-studies, people on campus begin running around gathering data and shouting, “The accreditors are coming! The accreditors are coming!” To avoid this reaction, our recommendation is don’t just assess student satisfaction as part of your self-study, but assess student satisfaction on a regular cycle, once every two or three years (if not annually).
4 ways to use student satisfaction scores to prepare for accreditors
How can you use data from student satisfaction surveys in your accreditation process? I have four suggestions for you.
1. Match the survey items to your accreditation requirements. As a resource for you, we have mapped the individual items on the Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL) Satisfaction-Priorities Surveys (including the Student Satisfaction Inventory, the Adult Student Priorities Survey, the Adult Learner Inventory and the Priorities Survey for Online Learners) to the individual criteria for all of the regional accreditors across the United States. You can download the relevant mapping document for your survey version and region here. This takes the guesswork out of determining how the student feedback lines up with the documentation you need to provide. You can also see how the items are mapped to your regional accrediting agency.
2. Respond to student-identified challenge items. The RNL Satisfaction-Priorities Surveys identify areas of high importance and low satisfaction as challenge items. These are priority areas for improvement based on the perceptions of your students. By actively working to improve the student experience in these areas, you can potentially improve overall student satisfaction, which studies have correlated with better student retention, higher institutional graduation rates, higher alumni giving, and lower loan default rates. Improvements in these areas are going to look good for your accreditation.
3. Document your student-identified strengths. The RNL Satisfaction-Priorities Surveys also reflect student-identified strengths, which are items of high importance and high satisfaction. These are the areas that your students care about, and where they think you are doing a good job. Mentioning your strengths to your accreditors helps to position you in a positive light and to focus the conversation on where you are meeting or exceeding student expectations.