Enrollment at community colleges has been a hot topic lately, especially following President Obama’s announced plan to provide tuition-free classes for students at two-year institutions. In a recent blog, my colleague Mari Normyle shared some reactions based on assumptions about community college students and the quality of their educational experience. The data she shared may counteract some common assumptions people have about community college students (especially their commitment to academics), which illustrates why it is important to study and analyze the data about college student attitudes and behaviors.
One assumption many have is that when college students are satisfied, they are more likely to persist and complete their educations. Noel-Levitz has investigated this topic in recent years. We published a study by Dr. Laurie Schreiner called Linking Student Satisfaction and Retention, which found a significant link between satisfaction and persistence at four-year institutions. In another study last year, The Relationship of Student Satisfaction to Key Indicators for Colleges and Universities, my colleague Scott Bodfish and I reviewed institutional graduation rates, including those at community colleges, and found that colleges with higher graduation rates were also more likely to have higher student satisfaction scores.
However, while many community colleges have long had a commitment to assessing student satisfaction, there has been little definitive evidence that satisfaction with the experience was linked to individual student persistence at two-year institutions, until now.
Dr. Karen Miller, vice president for access and completion at Cuyahoga Community College (OH), in cooperation with Noel-Levitz, recently completed a national study of 22 institutions and more than 22,000 student records to examine student satisfaction and spring-to-spring persistence. The study, Predicting Student Retention at Community Colleges, is the first study of its kind with a national scope. Dr. Miller looked at student satisfaction and importance data from the Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) as well as additional institutional and student demographic variables to see how they predict student retention at community colleges.