National Student Satisfaction: A Recruitment Perspective

Julie BryantVice President for Student SuccessApril 9, 2024

You may be familiar with the RNL Student Satisfaction Inventory™ (SSI) as an assessment tool to positively impact student success, as well as to provide the student voice for strategic planning and to document improvements for accreditation purposes. But have you considered the data points that are collected that can be valuable from a recruitment perspective as well?

Institutional choice

In addition to gathering student demographic indicators such as class level, enrollment status, race/ethnicity, etc., the SSI also asks students to indicate if they are attending their first, second or third choice institution. The responses across institution type from the 2023 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report (reflecting data from the fall of 2020 through the spring of 2023) show this distribution for institutional choice.

Chart: What percentage of students indicate they are attending their first-choice institution?

Why is this important to monitor? Well, we know that students who are attending their first-choice institution tend to have higher overall student satisfaction.

Chart: Satisfaction Levels by Institutional Choice showing first-choice students are the most satisfied.

This chart shows that students who indicated they were attending their first-choice institution had the highest levels of being satisfied or very satisfied with their overall experience as compared with students who perceive themselves to be at their second- or third-choice institution.

Is your marketing and admission team positioning your institution as a first-choice institution? Are you working to attract students who truly want to attend your college? Do you know how students perceive you throughout the admissions process? Are you highlighting the voices of currently enrolled students on why your college is the best fit, the best choice, the best value? By attracting students who are more likely to be satisfied with their experience, we know that you also put yourself in the position to retain and graduate those more satisfied students, so it is an important consideration for student and institutional success.

Enrollment factors

Another valuable data point collected on the SSI that can be used for admissions/marketing is how important a variety of enrollment factors were in students’ decisions to enroll. These data can inform the messaging you want to feature in your recruitment materials and help you think about if the factors align with how you currently position the institution.

Here are the factors listed by students at four-year private, four-year public, and community colleges.

Table: Factors in the decision to enroll for four-year private institutions.
Table: Factors in the decision to enroll for four-year public institutions.
Table: Factors in the decision to enroll for community colleges

Across all three institution types, cost and financial aid are the top factors, so it is important to be intentional with your financial aid processes and with positioning the cost of your institution as an investment in the student’s future. This is messaging that can be targeted to both the student and the families of prospective (and current) students. What is interesting to note is how the perceived academic reputation comes in third at all three institution types. This provides the potential to better position the academic experience that students can expect at your institution, including the knowledge and experience of your faculty, the quality of your academic programs, the access to courses to reach graduation requirements in a timely manner, and the outcomes of your alumni with a degree from your institution. When academic reputation is more highly valued, it may positively influence students’ overall sense of satisfaction with their selection of your institution.

Sharing institutional choice and enrollment factor data

If you already regularly assess student satisfaction, be sure to share these data points with your vice president for enrollment and others who are responsible for recruiting students to your institution.

If you aren’t already capturing student feedback data, you may want to invite Enrollment Management to support an effort to administer the satisfaction surveys on your campus, possibly by even contributing to the investment with their budget allocation. You can build the case on why it is valuable to have these data points, along with the identified institutional strengths which can attract new students to the college who are going to value what your students say are already doing well, with current information gathered from the Student Satisfaction Inventory.

We can also help you discuss how to share your data and act on the findings. Reach out and we can set up a time for a complimentary consultation.

Complimentary consultation on student satisfaction assessment

Talk to our satisfaction assessment experts about how you can easily implement the survey on your campus, including when is the best time to survey and how to get strong completion rates.

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About the Author

Julie Bryant

Julie L. Bryant, vice president for student success at RNL, works directly with colleges and universities throughout North America in the area of satisfaction assessment. Julie is responsible for client service to more than 2,700 institutions...

Read more about Julie's experience and expertise

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

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