Five ways campuses can use student satisfaction assessment data to their benefit

Shannon Cook

Senior Director of Retention Solutions

January 16, 2013

An image of various graphs and charts, representing the usefulness of student satisfaction data on a college or university campus. This data can be used in many different ways to help guide institutional efforts.
Student satisfaction data is useful for more than just retention. It can also help guide marketing, accreditation, strategic planning, and more.

When working with campuses that are interested in satisfaction assessment or those that are already assessing their students, often I get two questions:

  1.  How are other schools successfully administering their assessments?
  2.  How are other schools getting the most out of their satisfaction-priorities data?

For campuses administering the Noel-Levitz Satisfaction-Priorities Assessments, we have seen the greatest response rates when faculty members administer a printed survey to students during class—typically 75 to 100 percent. This does require an investment of time (and faculty willing to facilitate the survey), but it not only yields the greatest response rates, it sends a message that your campus is making a commitment to surveying students about their experiences.

Of course, in many cases, online surveying may be the better option (or the only option for online learners). In this case, you can still target specific classes and have students complete the survey during a designated class time—the rates compare favorably to completing print surveys during classes. You can also send surveys to your students via e-mail. The responses rates tend to be much lower (expect 20-30 percent at the upper end), but you can also cast a wide net across the entire student body.

After you have administered the surveys, you need to have a plan in place to actually put the data to work.  Who will be involved in analyzing the data, as well as making and implementing changes, and how will you inform the campus of what changes have been made?  Each institution has their unique formula for making this work as well has how they use the data.  Below are just a few examples of how our clients are getting the most from their assessment activities:

  1. Guide strategic action planning—By assessing student satisfaction and student priorities, campuses can pinpoint their areas of greatest need. If students place a high priority on registering for classes easily but show low satisfaction in this area, you know that your campus should make this issue a priority for action and improvement.
  2. Strengthen student retention initiatives—Satisfaction assessment addresses a number of key retention areas such as academic advising, faculty interactions, and campus resources. You can identify opportunities for improving student success and completion.
  3. Meet accreditation requirements—Accrediting organizations require the kind of student experience data that satisfaction assessment can deliver.
  4. Identify areas of strength for institutional marketing—Satisfaction assessment also identifies institutional strengths, areas of high priority and high satisfaction. These strengths can provide great benefits to tout to prospective students in your recruitment communications.
  5. Chart your progress toward campus goals—Assessing students every year or every other year allows you to track your progress toward satisfaction goals with systematic, reliable data.

We are going to explore administration strategies and action strategies during a free Webinar on February 12, How to Assess Student Satisfaction and Priorities.  I invite you to join us, as two campus presenters will discuss both paper and online surveying for traditional undergraduates, adult learners, and online learners. Friends University has been administering the Student Satisfaction Inventory and the Adult Student Priorities Survey for a couple of years via paper, and they recently implemented the online-only Priorities Survey for Online Learners. Cuyahoga Community College has been regularly administering the Student Satisfaction Inventory since 2000 and the Priorities Survey for Online Learners since 2005. You’ll also hear how these institutions are using their data to impact student retention and to look at learning outcomes, as well as for strategic planning activities and student success programs.

I hope you can join us for the Webinar on February 12. I would also be glad to discuss satisfaction strategies with you—deciding how to administer surveys, picking your student samples, interpreting and acting on the data. Simply send me an e-mail with your questions and I will share my recommendations and how your campus could benefit.

Good luck with your surveying, and remember that using data to inform your planning always results in a stronger plan and a better outcome.

About the Author

As senior director of retention solutions, Shannon Cook assists colleges and universities with using our assessment tools, market research, and management consulting to improve student persistence and degree completion rates. She is experienced in addressing...

Read more about Shannon's experience and expertise

Reach Shannon by e-mail at Shannon.Cook@RuffaloNL.com.

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Enrollment, Student Success