SOURCE: Noel-Levitz


September 29, 2011 16:26 ET

Noel-Levitz: New Trend Study Examines College Student Satisfaction and Priorities Between 1995 and 2010

Students Report Greater Satisfaction Now, Even as Financial Aid and Cost Factors Have Increased in Importance

IOWA CITY, IA--(Marketwire - Sep 29, 2011) - Despite economic, technological, demographic, and academic changes that have swept through higher education, college students today tend to be more satisfied than their counterparts from 15 years ago.

This finding comes from a new study, "National Student Satisfaction and Priorities 15-Year Trend Report." The report examines data from hundreds of thousands of students, comparing results from students in 1995 and 2010 while also charting trends in overall student satisfaction across the 15-year time period. The findings have been published in four versions by institution type: four-year private institutions, four-year public institutions, two-year public colleges, and career and private schools. The study was conducted by Noel-Levitz, the leading higher education consulting firm in North America, using data from the Student Satisfaction Inventory™ survey instrument. This instrument assesses student satisfaction on a wide range of items related to college life and learning, while also asking students to rate the priority of each item.

Overall, student satisfaction has increased across four-year colleges and universities and two-year public institutions. Four-year public institutions had the largest positive shift in overall student satisfaction, increasing 10 percent from 47 percent in 1995 to 57 percent in 2010. Career and private schools were the only sector with a satisfaction decline, dropping from 58 percent to 54 percent.

The report also reveals the top enrollment factors -- the issues that affect a student's decision to attend a college. Among public two-year and four-year campuses, cost and financial aid were the top two factors in enrollment. Financial aid was the number-one enrollment factor at four-year private colleges and universities, with cost third after academic reputation. Financial aid and cost were the second and fourth enrollment factors for students at career and private institutions.

While overall satisfaction has increased, there are still some troubling signs for campuses. For instance, when asked whether student tuition was a worthwhile investment, only 44 percent of students at private four-year campuses in 2010 were satisfied. The number rose to 52 percent for four-year public campuses, but that still means nationally, half of students at four-year institutions expressed some level of dissatisfaction in the investment they had made in college.

"One of the most interesting findings of the 15-year study is seeing that, despite huge increases in the cost to attend college, students in 2010 found tuition to be a more worthwhile investment than their counterparts in 1995," said Julie Bryant, associate vice president for retention solutions at Noel-Levitz and the head of the satisfaction-priorities research project. "This could be due in part to the greater edge a student with a college degree has in seeking employment today compared to 15 years ago. At the same time, we still see a large group of students -- a majority in some cases -- not agreeing that paying tuition was worthwhile."

The demographics of the participants have also shifted over time. At four-year public, four-year private, and career institutions, the numbers of African American students increased ranging from 4 to 11 percent, with Hispanic students increases ranging from 4 to 6 percent. Furthermore, across all institution types, more students were enrolling full-time and fewer working even part time in 2010 than in 1995.

"These shifts in our study reflect overall shifts in higher education," said Bryant. "Campuses are seeing greater diversity in the student body. As far as enrollment and working goes, that result could stem from fewer employment opportunities for students in today's job market, as well as a greater urgency to complete one's degree in order to minimize the cost to attend and get into a career."

The number of participating institutions in the study was 212 in 1995 and 544 in 2010, with the number of participating students increasing from 80,210 to 236,104 in that time.

To see the full report, visit:

About Noel-Levitz
Noel-Levitz is a nationally recognized higher education consulting firm that focuses on strategic planning for enrollment and student success. For more information, visit

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