student satisfaction - Student Research Foundation

How Satisfied Are Students with Their College Choices?

As educators, we place a lot of emphasis on helping high school students gain admission to their top-choice colleges. But once that work is done and our students head off to college, do we know how happy they are?

The 2018 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report from RNL provides answers. Based on a survey of 614,800 students who were enrolled in 806 colleges between the years 2015-2018, the study provides statistically meaningful answers to questions of student satisfaction. The students who took part in the study were enrolled in private colleges, four-year public colleges, community and technical colleges, and online colleges. In addition, the study collected data from adult undergraduate and graduate students.

So, how happy are all those students with their college choices? Let’s take a closer look at the study’s findings.

Satisfaction Levels by Institution Type

  • 56% of students at four-year private colleges say they are “satisfied overall” with their college experience
  • 56% of students at four-year public institutions say they are “satisfied overall” with their college experience
  • 64% of students at community colleges say they are “satisfied overall” with their college experience
  • 68% of adult undergraduate students say they are “satisfied overall” with their college experience,
  • 67% of graduate students say they are “satisfied overall” with their college experience
  • 73% of online learners say they are “satisfied overall” with their college experience

What Groups of Students Are Most Likely to Re-Enroll in their Current Institutions?

  • 57% of students at four-year private colleges say they will re-enroll
  • 61% of students at four-year public colleges say they will re-enroll
  • 72% of students at community colleges say they will re-enroll
  • 71% of adult undergraduate students say they will re-enroll
  • 69% of all graduate students say they will re-enroll
  • 75% of online learners say they will re-enroll

How Satisfied Are Students Who Attended their First, second, and Third-Choice Schools?

  • 64% of students who are attending their first-choice school are satisfied overall
  • 47% of students who are attending their second-choice school are satisfied overall
  • 33% of students who are attending their third-choice school are satisfied overall

(Note that these statistics apply to four-year private and public colleges.)

What Impact Do Students’ Race and Ethnicity Have on College Satisfaction Rates?

  • 60% of Caucasian students are satisfied overall with their colleges
  • 46% of African-American students are satisfied overall with their colleges
  • 46% of Asian-American students are satisfied overall with their colleges
  • 46% of Hispanic students are satisfied overall with their colleges

(Note that these statistics apply to four-year private and public colleges.)

Satisfaction Drops Slightly During the Four Years at Four-Year Institutions

  • 59% of all college freshmen are satisfied with their college choice
  • 56% of sophomores are satisfied with their college choice
  • 55% of juniors are satisfied with their college choice
  • 54% of seniors are satisfied with their college choice

Female College Students Are More Satisfied than Males

  • 58% of female students say they are satisfied overall with their colleges
  • 52% of male students say they are satisfied overall with their colleges

(Note that these statistics apply to four-year private and public colleges.)

The Importance of Financial Aid Decreases as Students Age

  • 81% of students age 24 and younger say financial aid was very important in their college choice
  • 82% of students age 25-34 say financial aid was very important in their college choice
  • 79% of students age 35-44 say financial aid was very important in their college choice
  • 77% of students age 45 and older say financial aid was very important in their college choice

Academic Reputation Is a Big Reason Students Select Colleges

  • 80% of students who are attending their first-choice college cite the academic reputation of their school as an important reason they chose to attend
  • 70% of students who are attending their third-choice college cite the academic reputation of their school as an important reason they chose to attend

And Here’s a Finding that Will Surprise Few . . .

The study also found that Caucasian students are the most likely to be attending their first-choice colleges . . .

  • 60% of Caucasian students younger than age 24 are attending their first-choice colleges
  • 50% of African-American students younger than age 24 are attending their first-choice colleges
  • 50% of Asian-American students younger than age 24 are attending their first-choice colleges
  • 54% of Hispanic students younger than age 24 are attending their first-choice colleges

To Learn More about College & Career Planning

We invite all students to explore their college & career options by participating in our career and college research studies. Students who complete the free career test for high school students will receive information on college and career opportunities which match their interests.

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