Read how this university used the findings of
the Adult Student Priorities Survey™ to transform
its services for adult learners
Like many institutions today, Metropolitan State University has a large adult learner population, including many students who arrive or transfer in with prior credits. To assess their needs and to create stronger pathways to entry and college completion, the university turned to the Adult Student Priorities Survey (ASPS) from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.
Initially, the university’s findings from the ASPS identified some substantial gaps in its adult learners’ satisfaction compared to the students’ expectations/priorities. However, the university struggled to win campuswide support to address some of these gaps. Among the issues identified were unnecessary delays in the evaluation of transferable credits, a lack of interdepartmental coordination, advising gaps, training needs, and the need to re-invent internal work flows and processes to improve online, phone, and in-person customer service.
To turn things around, the university used the ASPS data to make changes to its culture and leadership. A position was created to help bring several departments together: a new associate vice president of enrollment management. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system was added. The identified issues were consistently shared campuswide, and they gradually won attention. Most importantly, the data became a regular part of the university’s annual strategic planning process.
- Substantial gaps in admissions and financial aid services have been reduced.
- Customer service scores have gone up.
- What had been a 10-week process of evaluating prospective adult students’ transferable credits was reduced to just 12 to 14 business days.
- An adult learner “concierge” model was adopted, offering students a one-stop gateway to the services of six departments, including financial aid, admissions, and the registrar.
- Mandatory customer service training was put in place for all student affairs employees, including signed customer service agreements identifying customer service priorities.
- 6,000 incoming phone calls a week from adult learners have been reduced to 3,200 due to more proactive communication.
Going forward, the university plans to administer additional Ruffalo Noel Levitz assessments with its nontraditional learners, including the Adult Learner Inventory™ and the Priorities Survey for Online Learners™.
“We are excited about the ASPS at our institution. It has helped us make a foundational change toward using data to drive decisions. It says, ‘Here’s what our students are telling us we need to improve.’
“We use the findings to shape our strategic direction. Every year in our strategic planning meetings we ask: What are some actionable items we can take to close these gaps?
“The biggest gaps we’ve closed so far have been in admissions and financial aid. Since adult learners often take three to five years contemplating their enrollment decision, we’ve found it is essential to address their enrollment drivers. Last semester, we were the only institution in the Minnesota State University System that increased its enrollment.
“The most important thing we did was to tie the data to our strategic planning process. When you involve some administrative advocates, the data doesn’t just sit on a shelf. Instead, everyone on campus knows you are doing this, and people want to know how you are performing.”
VP, Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
Case study used with permission of Metropolitan State University