Short Term Controllability

Washington MonumentIt’s one thing to get the data about importance to students and their related levels of satisfaction, it’s quite another to be able to do anything about those things. On the one hand you might have an opportunity to manage student expectations which could possibly affect either importance or satisfaction, or both. On the other hand, you might be able to improve services and affect satisfaction scores in a positive way.

On the third hand, there might not be much that you can do at all, at least not without a long time horizon, lots of patience, and maybe lots of money. As I look at our results of the PSOL, I believe that there are four items where we don’t have much of an opportunity to affect results. They are as follows:

01. This institution has a good reputation.
06. Tuition paid is a worthwhile investment.
08. Student-to-student collaborations are valuable to me.
09. Adequate financial aid is available.

College reputations are not built or destroyed overnight. It may be nice to know what your students think about your reputation, but there might not be too much that you can do about it. I suppose you could start an internal promotional campaign designed to convince your current students that you really are much better than they think, but that seems silly, self-serving, and somewhat pathetic.

Convincing students that their tuition dollars are being well spent is also a rather futile exercise in my opinion. Even though that may be true, many people think that there is always a better deal right around the corner. The grass is always greener somewhere else which means that tuition is always cheaper elsewhere or the quality is better or both. Good luck trying to convince students (or any consumers) that they have misjudged the value in what they’re paying for.

Student-to-student collaboration? I’ve already posted about that a couple of times. It’s a bit of a strange question for students to assess, especially on the satisfaction scale. My satisfaction with collaborations is more a function of who the collaborators are rather than something that the institution can control.

Finally, adequate financial aid? Are you kidding me? The only adequate financial aid for many people is something that covers all their expenses (that includes beer money) and doesn’t have to be paid back. Short of that they will rate financial aid adequacy as extremely important and satisfaction level as quite low. Again, this begs the question of what the institution can possibly do about the huge gap between the importance and satisfaction scores here. Start giving away money in the hallways? I doubt it.

All told, only four out of 26 survey items that you have very little control over isn’t too bad. The other items I believe that you either have a great deal or a moderate amount of control over, or ability to influence in the short term of 1-3 year. Those are the items where you may be able to see some increases in your survey results if you pick your strategies wisely.

(What does the Washington Monument have to do with this post? Nuthin’. I just like it and it’s mine, so why not?)

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