Implementation Guidelines

Institutional Priorities Survey

Student Satisfaction Inventory™ (SSI)
Adult Student Priorities Survey™ (ASPS)
Institutional Priorities Survey™ (IPS)

Jump to:
Inventory completion time
Convenient scoring
How to administer the inventories
When to administer the inventories
How to select your sample
How to customize the inventories

To order your survey materials, all you need to know is the number of students or campus personnel you plan to survey. To determine this number, refer to the sampling instructions below. All other implementation decisions can be made after you place your order.

Note that free telephone consultations are available to assist you with selecting your student sample, deciding how to administer the survey, interpreting the findings, and planning appropriate follow-up initiatives. Call us at 1-800-876-1117.

Inventory completion time

Students and campus personnel need approximately 30 minutes to complete the paper-and-pencil Student Satisfaction Inventory, Adult Student Inventory, and Institutional Priorities Survey. The web versions of these surveys take approximately 20 minutes to complete.

Convenient scoring

Send all completed inventories to Ruffalo Noel Levitz at our Iowa City address: 2350 Oakdale Boulevard, Coralville, IA 52241. To ensure that your inventories can be scored, please do not fold or staple them. To avoid delays, remove any inserts and make sure the inventories are all facing the same direction. Be sure to include your Scoring Request Form or a cover memo with your completed inventories. Package any batches you want scored separately. We recommend shipping via a trackable method to insure completed surveys are not lost in transit. No shipping is required for web versions of the surveys. Simply coordinate with Ruffalo Noel Levitz to close your web survey and the data set is transferred to the processing center automatically.

Your scored results will be shipped approximately 12-15 business days after receipt of your completed inventories. Please allow 3-5 business days for standard first-class shipping. Note: At your request, we can ship the materials via overnight or two-day express mail, payable by your institution.

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How to administer the inventory

Jump to:
SSI and ASPS - paper-and-pencil version
SSI and ASPS - Web version
IPS - paper-and-pencil version
IPS - Web version

SSI and ASPS - paper-and-pencil version

Four common approaches to administering the Student Satisfaction Inventory or the Adult Student Priorities Survey appear below. Choose a method that works for your institution or design a more suitable alternative.

  • Ask faculty to have students complete the inventory during a regular class period. (Typical response rates range from 75-100 percent depending on class attendance and faculty participation.)
  • Ask faculty to distribute the inventory during a specific class period and to collect it during the next class period. (Typical response rates range from 30-60 percent depending on incentives and faculty participation.)
  • Administer the inventory during a free period on campus or in residence halls, scheduling several time slots so students can choose when to participate. (Typical response rates vary but are generally less than 50 percent.)
  • Send the inventory to students via campus or U.S. mail. (Remember, for scoring purposes, the survey cannot be folded.) If you choose this option, we suggest you encourage students to return the inventory promptly, by a specific deadline, and that you plan for follow-up reminder mailings. You may also wish to designate a specific method for returning the completed inventory, e.g., "Bring your completed inventory to your next scheduled advising session." (Response rates are typically much lower with this distribution method with ranges of 10-20 percent.)

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SSI and ASPS - Web version

Two common approaches to administering the web version of the Student Satisfaction Inventory or the Adult Student Priorities Survey appear below. Choose a method that works for your institution or design a more suitable alternative.

  • Administer the survey via a broadcast email to your entire student population or to a large representative sample. You will need to provide each student with a unique numeric password (you can either load these into our system to correspond with an existing student ID or Social Security Number, or we can provide you with randomly generated numeric passwords). Ruffalo Noel Levitz will assist you with this process as necessary. Be aware that some students may have concerns about providing their Social Security Number, so the random number may be the best option. Incentives such as a drawing for bookstore gift certificates can help improve your response rate. General publicity on campus about the survey can also increase awareness. (Typical response rates range from 10-30 percent.)
  • Target specific classes and have the survey completed during a designated computer lab time. You will still need to provide each student with a unique numeric password. (Typical response rates range from 75-100 percent depending on class attendance and faculty participation.)

Note: Other methods, such as postcard mailings to students with the Web site address or posting requests on campus to access the Web site have not proven as effective and are not recommended.

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IPS - paper-and-pencil version

Institutions have indicated they use the following three methods to administer the Institutional Priorities Survey:

  • Administer the survey via campus mail. (Remember, for scoring purposes, the survey cannot be folded.) If you choose this method to administer the survey, we suggest you encourage participation using follow-up reminder mailings. Also, you may want to reinforce deadlines with announcements during staff meetings, in staff newsletters, or via e-mail. You may also choose to have your personnel return a separate response card with their name on it so you can more easily track who has completed the survey.
  • Contact department heads, directors, and deans - one-on-one - and ask them to handle the distribution and collection of the survey. Be sure to explain (and ask them to relay) why completing the survey is important.
  • Use a designated staff or faculty meeting. Surveys can be completed during the meeting or returned at a later date.

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IPS - Web version

The primary method of distributing the web version of the Institutional Priorities Survey is via a broadcast e-mail to all of your campus personnel, or to the individuals you have selected to complete the survey. You will need to provide each individual with a unique numeric password. (You can either load these into our system or ask us to provide you with the passwords - we'll assist you with this process as necessary.) Be aware that some staff may have concerns about providing a Social Security Number, so the random number may be the best option.

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When to administer the inventories

Use of all three surveys is appropriate at any time during the academic year. However, we suggest you avoid surveying during intensive testing times (e.g., mid-terms and finals) or during the first 3-4 weeks of the term (so entering students have time to become familiar with your campus before responding to the survey items). In general, we recommend administering the Ruffalo Noel Levitz surveys during similar timeframes during the academic year, or within a few weeks. This ensures that data from multiple instruments (especially the combination of the SSI and the IPS) will be gathered from a nearly identical campus environment. You may also want to plan to survey at the same time period over multiple years for appropriate bench-marking. Here are some additional guidelines:

  • Fall surveying. Among the advantages of fall surveying: 1) more entering students can be surveyed before attrition takes effect, while decisions to stay or leave are still being formed; and 2) you'll have time to effect changes with the survey findings during the same academic year.
  • Spring surveying. Among the advantages of spring surveying: 1) students have more experiences on which to base their responses; 2) you can use the late spring and summer for follow-up planning.

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How to select your sample

SSI and ASPS - paper-and pencil version: please follow instructions below
SSI and ASPS - Web version: please call Ruffalo Noel Levitz to discuss appropriate sample sizes

Use the chart below to identify an appropriate sample size for your institution, but be sure to read this section completely before arriving at a final count. Ultimately, the size of your student sample depends on the uses you intend to make of the results.

Enrollment Sampling Guidelines

499 students or less
100% - or all that can be surveyed efficiently

60% or minimum of 400 - whichever is higher

50% or minimum of 600 - whichever is higher

40% or minimum of 1,000 - whichever is higher

33% or minimum of 1,200 - whichever is higher

25% or minimum of 1,800 - whichever is higher

10,000 and above
20% or minimum of 2,500 - whichever is higher

Use these suggestions as a guide. The numbers above represent the number of surveys to administer if you expect a high survey completion rate (above 60%). You can offset lower expected completion rates by increasing the size of your sample.

As the chart indicates, the paper-and-pencil Student Satisfaction Inventory and the Adult Student Priorities Survey are designed to be used with 20% to 100% of your entire student population. To be representative, your sample should reflect generally the percentage of students that make up your student population by class level and other characteristics such as your enrollments in majors/programs and day and evening classes. For example, if you have a daytime student population of 1,200 students of which 35% are freshmen, 30% are sophomores, 20% are juniors, and 15% are seniors, you will want your sample of at least 600 students to reflect generally these percentages. Also, if you will be requesting Target Group Reports, you'll want to be sure your sample represents each identified target population adequately.

For the IPS
If at all possible, most institutions will want to survey 100% of their faculty, staff, administrators, and board members. If that is not possible, you will want to survey at least 25-50% of your full- and part-time campus personnel. The sample should represent each personnel segment's relative size. Also, you may want to oversample faculty and other personnel segments that interact with students on a regular basis. Groups to consider surveying include:

  • faculty representing all majors, programs, and departments
  • president, chancellor, and vice presidents
  • deans and directors
  • professional staff
  • board members
  • advising/counseling staff
  • student services staff
  • library staff
  • registrar's staff
  • business office staff
  • bookstore /student center staff

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How to customize the inventory

Important: For the paper-and-pencil versions of all three Ruffalo Noel Levitz surveys, it is not necessary to inform us which items you decide to include in the customized sections because results for these sections will be identified by item number only in your Campus Report. For the web versions, please read the information below, then contact Ruffalo Noel Levitz for instructions on how to add the items of your choosing to the customized sections online.

There are two sections of the surveys that you can customize to meet your institution's needs. They are entirely up to you to define. The first section appears on the third page of the inventories and contains 10 items on the SSI and IPS, and 20 items on the ASPS. The second section appears at the end of the inventories. It contains two demographic items on the SSI and three demographic items on the IPS and ASPS.

About the 10-item (or 20-item) section. This is the first section you can customize. It accommodates up to 10 (or 20) additional items you create. We can supply sample items on request. One tip: be sure that every item you add is stated in positive terms. For example, write: "There are adequate remedial courses available." Do not write: "Remedial courses are inadequate."

About the last demographic items. The last items on the inventory provide an opportunity for you to gather additional demographic information. Be sure to choose these items carefully - because your choices will determine your access to additional Target Group Reports.

The first item asks students to supply a four-digit numeric code. Most institutions using this item will want to ask students to indicate a code that identifies their major or program. (The four-digit codes are codes you define to correspond to the appropriate majors/departments for your campus.) Using this approach, you could then order a customized Target Group Report by major/program/department to view the data from each major/program/department separately. (Many campuses indicate that this is a very useful way to segment the data.) You could also view the data for entire academic departments by requesting an aggregate Custom Report using multiple major codes.

The final item (or items) of each inventory are also very flexible and can be used for any purpose you deem appropriate. The only requirement is that it should be written to elicit just one response - not multiple responses (see example below). You can use this item (or items) to collect information such as the size of the student's graduating class, how far the student travels each day to attend class, the particular campus the student attends (if your institution has multiple campuses), the student's native language, involvement in particular campus activities, etc. Note from Example B that the item you design can include up to six response options.

Example A
I receive financial aid.


Example B
I attend most of my classes at the:

main campus
downtown campus
north campus
south campus
east campus
west campus

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Instructions for the paper-and-pencil version

To administer the customized sections of the paper-and-pencil surveys, simply prepare the items of your choosing on a separate sheet for your students or campus personnel to refer to at the appropriate time. (If you choose to use an item with four-digit numeric codes, be sure to provide a list of categories identified by each code. Examples: 0001 - English; 0254 - Biology, etc.) Type instructions such as the following at the top of a sheet of paper:

Please respond to the following additional items and record your responses on the actual inventory in the spaces provided next to the number indicated.

Below the instructions, list all the items you plan to include in numerical order. For example, a four-year university using every option available would list numbers 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 115, and 116.

Results for the customized items are automatically summarized in your Campus Report, minus national norm comparisons.

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