student success

Taking college satisfaction data beyond the institutional research office

Julie Bryant

Associate Vice President of Retention Solutions

May 14, 2013

Sharing satisfaction assessment data can benefit campus colleagues in enrollment management, academic affairs, and student life
Sharing student satisfaction data can benefit colleagues from a variety of campus departments.

I was talking with a client recently and she pointed out that many times the data that colleges collect on student satisfaction end up residing in the Institutional Research office. We know that satisfaction data can be critical for accreditation documentation which is often why campuses administer a student satisfaction survey. The satisfaction report becomes one of the many data points that are collected for institutional assessment purposes. Yet all too often, it gets checked off a list of must-do assessments and remains on file, leaving many on campus unaware of the valuable data available to them.

It may be time to make friends with your institutional researcher and ask him or her if you have recent student satisfaction data, like that collected by the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory. Satisfaction data can provide valuable information to a variety of campus offices—and you don’t need to be an expert in statistics to have the data reveal something that will help you to do your job better.

Enrollment Management

If you are responsible for enrollment management on your campus, student satisfaction data can:

  • Provide you with current student perceptions of your admissions staff and of the financial aid processes, so you can get an idea of where you may need to make improvements;
  • Show you which enrollment factors were most important to students in their decisions to enroll, helping you to know where you should target key recruitment messages; and
  • Identify your institutional strengths (areas of high importance and high satisfaction) to feature in your recruitment materials, so you can attract new students by emphasizing key areas that they value.

We know that enrollment managers are often faced with high expectations for delivering the student class each year. By tapping into the data that has already been gathered on your campus, you can improve your processes and have your own market research to know how to focus your recruitment messages.

Academic Affairs

In the areas of academic affairs, including instruction, advising, and registration, student satisfaction data can:

  • Reveal how students perceive the quality of instruction and the availability of advising on your campus and celebrate the positive perceptions of these areas;
  • Identify if registering for classes is a challenge from the student perspective; and
  • See if students in particular subpopulations are having different academic experiences, so you can target your responses appropriately (if you also capture unique campus majors as a custom demographic item).

Students place a high priority on their academic experience. Instruction and advising are often ranked the top two items in importance across all institution types. As you work to constantly improve the academic experience for your students, be sure you review the student satisfaction data that are available to you to confirm that you are working in the right areas and keeping a laser focus on the experiences that can be further improved. When you add focus group discussions to the mix (using the student satisfaction data to prioritize the topics for discussion), you can involve students in the problem-solving process and get a clear roadmap for how to move forward with the right improvements.

Student Life

If your area of responsibility is student life, student satisfaction results can:

  • Provide you with actionable data to improve student success and retention by targeting improvements in the areas that students care about most;
  • Highlight specific areas that may need additional attention, such as career services, tutoring, residence hall policies, or orientation; and
  • Showcase student perceptions on campus climate and campus life areas, so you can improve how students feel about the experience at your institution.

The student life experience at four-year and two-year campuses is the glue that holds the student experience together. The support they receive outside of the classroom can enhance their academic experience and can help ensure that they stay successfully enrolled. In fact, we know from the research that students’ perception of the campus climate can be linked to retention.  Satisfaction data can provide direction on what you can celebrate as successes and allow you to prioritize your resources for the coming fiscal year.

Let me know how you are using satisfaction assessment data on your campus. In addition, I would be happy to let you know if your campus has administered the Student Satisfaction Inventory at any time in the past or help to get you connected with the right people on your campus who are considering conducting a satisfaction assessment in the future.

I will be speaking at the Noel-Levitz National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention in New Orleans, July 16-18 on the topic of “Utilizing Satisfaction Data for Retention Improvement.” I hope to see you there.  We can also continue the conversation via e-mail or on Twitter: @JulieBryantNL.

About the Author

Julie Bryant of RNL

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...

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