enrollment

New nationwide college student satisfaction report shows areas where college students feel their experiences could be improved

Julie Bryant

Associate Vice President of Retention Solutions

November 10, 2017

Our new college student satisfaction report—the  2017 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report—shows what colleges students identified as their top priorities for improvement.

This report contains data from the Ruffalo Noel Levitz satisfaction and priorities surveys, which institutions use to help prioritize institutional changes. In turn, RNL regularly reports the collective findings from across the nation to identify trends in college student satisfaction. Here are some of the findings from this year’s college student satisfaction report.

Students’ calls for improvements—a sampling

  • Across higher education, students are concerned about their ability to register for the classes they need without conflicts.
  • At four-year private institutions, students prioritized their concerns about the availability of financial aid and their perception that tuition may not be a worthwhile investment.
  • Students at four-year public institutions indicated concerns with their perception that faculty may not be fair and unbiased in their treatment of individual students.
  • At community colleges, students were concerned about academic advisors’ knowledge and the timeliness of faculty feedback.
  • Students at career and private schools placed a priority on the equipment in the lab facilities being kept up to date.
  • Adult learners indicated concerns with receiving timely feedback and avoiding the campus “run-around.”
  • Online learners identified concerns with their perception of the quality of online instruction and their perception that student assignments may not be defined clearly enough.

These are just a sampling of the issues identified by more than 600,000 traditional and nontraditional students at 970 institutions across the country who completed the RNL Student Satisfaction Inventory™, the RNL Adult Student Priorities Survey™ or the RNL Priorities Survey for Online Learners™ over three academic years: 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.

At a glance: How satisfied are today’s college students?

Overall, college student satisfaction for the following six data sets has remained steady in recent years, with nontraditional learners continuing to reflect higher overall satisfaction scores:

College student satisfaction report: How satisfied are today's students

As shown above, the majority of today’s college students are satisfied with their college experiences, but there is room for improvement.  To move the needle on student satisfaction, RNL recommends that institutions drill down into the specific survey items measured on the RNL surveys and to intentionally respond to identified challenges.

Gathering student satisfaction data and responding to student priorities are key ways to improve student success. Studies reflect a link between overall satisfaction scores and individual student retention at four-year institutions (Schreiner, 2009) and at community colleges (Miller, 2015). Institutions with higher student satisfaction also have higher institutional graduation rates (Bryant and Bodfish, 2014).  In addition to supporting retention efforts, the satisfaction data provide the student voice in strategic planning activities, document institutional improvements for accreditation purposes, and identify positive experiences for recruitment messaging.

Do you know how satisfied your students are? I encourage you to assess student satisfaction on your campus regularly, and to compare your students’ perceptions with national data on student satisfaction and priorities for your institution type.

Download the full college student satisfaction report to see all the areas of high and low satisfaction

Download the 2017 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report to see all of the top challenges identified by students as well as the student-identified strengths for each institution type, highlighting what is working on college campuses.

Call 800.876.1117 or email me to learn more about RNL Satisfaction-Priorities Surveys or the 2017 college student satisfaction report. I will be happy to discuss how campuses are using satisfaction data to make positive changes that matter to their students.

2017 College Student Satisfaction Report


About the Author

Julie L. Bryant, associate vice president of retention solutions at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, works directly with colleges and universities throughout North America in the area of satisfaction assessment. Ms Bryant is responsible for client service...

Read more about Julie's experience and expertise

Reach Julie by e-mail at Julie.Bryant@RuffaloNL.com.


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Enrollment, Student Success