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Online and Adult Learners More Satisfied with College Experience than Traditional Students

According to a new national survey, online and adult students are generally more satisfied with their overall college experience than traditional on-campus students. The 2017 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report from Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a provider of enrollment management, student success and fundraising solutions for higher education, found that 67 percent of adult learners and 74 percent of online students rated their satisfaction level as "satisfied" or "very satisfied," while only 53 percent of students at four-year public institutions and 54 percent at four-year privates said the same. Students at two-year public institutions and career schools were in the middle, at 64 percent and 66 percent satisfied, respectively. 

Students were also asked, "All in all, if you had it to do over again, would you enroll [at your current institution]?" Online learners were the most likely to re-enroll, with 75 percent answering "probably yes" or "definitely yes." Students at two-year public institutions came in second, with 71 percent answering the same. As for the other categories:

  • Adult learners: 69 percent answered "probably yes" or "definitely yes";
  • Career school students: 66 percent;
  • Four-year public students: 59 percent; and
  • Four-year private students: 56 percent.

Across all types of institutions, the top challenges contributing to student satisfaction levels — those areas rated high in importance but low in satisfaction — included:

  • The ability to register for the classes students need without conflicts;
  • The perception of tuition as a worthwhile investment;
  • Availability of adequate financial aid;
  • Quality of instruction;
  • Fair and unbiased faculty; and
  • Helpful feedback from faculty and advisers.

"Student outcomes are a high priority for colleges and universities across the country," commented Patricia Maben, senior vice president of product strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, in a statement. "Understanding the satisfaction levels of students helps position colleges to better focus their resources to improve student success on their campuses—whether that experience is on a physical campus or online."

The 2017 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report is based on surveys of 683,000 students from 970 colleges and universities across the country. The full report is available free on the Ruffalo Noel Levitz site (registration required).

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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