As colleges and universities come to rely more and more on evidence to assess their performance while simultaneously coming under greater scrutiny from external agencies, the role that commercial surveys may play in self-study, strategic planning, and continuous improvement should be highlighted. They offer a wealth of information directly related to these processes and provide potentially powerful tools for understanding outcomes, e.g., retention, that are central to an institution’s mission.
The Higher Education Practice (HEP) is prepared to assist you in designing and implementing research programs using commercial surveys to complement your other research for self-study, strategic planning, and continuous improvement – with which we are also prepared to assist you. But here we would like to focus on the assistance we can provide you in the use of commercial surveys. This assistance ranges from working collaboratively with you to identify commercial surveys that may meet your needs, developing sampling designs to ensure representative results, analyzing results for your assessment/planning teams to interpret collaboratively in the context of their goals, and linking the results of surveys to institutional data for further analysis – particularly analyses designed for determining the predictors of retention or assessing achievement of your school’s goals.
HEP recognizes that hundreds of institutions utilize commercial surveys but usually to a very limited degree that often does not capitalize on the multiple benefits of them. For example, hundreds of independent colleges and universities administer the Higher Education Research Institute’s (HERI) Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) survey to their incoming students. But typically only aggregate results are reviewed in the context of results for comparison groups of schools leading to little institutional action based upon the results. In contrast there is ample evidence in the literature that, if students’ CIRP responses are linked to your institution’s data about them, you could devise an early intervention program to improve retention. In other words, you could act on the results of the CIRP rather than simply be informed by them.
HEP is prepared to help you in this regard. We “bring to the table” sophisticated research skills as well as a deep understanding of how independent colleges work – from admissions to the registrar’s office to student affairs to financial aid to … And so, we have the ability to do sophisticated research that is directly tied to actions you can take to improve your performance – not just research for the sake of research.
Here are some of the benefits of using commercial surveys:
They have been developed by professionals and have been tested over time
Have been used by hundreds of institutions
Provide access to comparative data on institutions similar to yours
Provide an opportunity to link survey results to institutional data as well as to other surveys administered to the same students later in their careers at your school.
Provide data that are directly related to your school’s self-study needs for reaccreditation, strategic planning, and continuous improvement.
Most importantly, if linked to institutional data and analyzed appropriately, provide information upon which you can act to improve performance.
The latter is the least understood and where HEP’s expertise can play a significant role in your use of these surveys.
The following is a list of commercial surveys that colleges often use. As you will see, they cover many of the areas colleges address in their self-studies, strategic planning and continuous improvement initiatives.
HERI CIRP – Higher Education Research Institute’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program
Administered to first-time students to discover their characteristics and attitudes upon entry.
HERI CSS – College Senior Survey
Administered to current students to discover their characteristics, the activities they engaged in, and their attitudes. Responses to the CIRP can be linked to responses to the CSS to assess changes.
NSSE – National Survey of Student Engagement
Administered to current students to determine the extent to which they are engaged in activities that are known to be associated with effective learning and development.
SSI – Student Satisfaction Inventory – Noel-Levitz
Administered to current students to determine the importance of various characteristics of a college to them and their level of satisfaction with them. A way to gauge “Unparalleled Service.”
IPS – Institutional Priorities Survey – Noel-Levitz
The parallel to the Student Satisfaction Inventory for faculty, administration, and staff.
ASP – Adult Student Priorities Survey – Noel-Levitz
Administered to adult students to determine what is important to them and how satisfied they are. Similar to SSI, but tailored to adult learner’s needs.
Priorities Survey for Online Learners – Noel-Levitz
Similar to IPS and ASP but tailored to online learners.
Adult Learner Inventory – Noel-Levitz in Collaboration with CAEL
The survey is based on the Principles of Effectiveness for Serving Adult Learners from CAEL (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning).
Survey of Academic Advising – ACT
Administered to current students to assess their attitudes and opinions about advising.
Alumni Survey – ACT
Administered to alumni to determine what they are doing now, characteristics of their employment or further schooling, their attitudes about the college and its contribution to where they are now in life. Excellent for outcomes research.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss how HEP may assist you in using one or more of these surveys in your self-study, strategic planning, and/or continuous improvement initiatives. Please contact Dr. Kenneth Hoyt, President, The Higher Education Practice, LLC if you are interested in learning more. He may be reached at: email@example.com or (908) 310-6943.
 HEP has no commercial interest nor relationships with any of these commercial survey providers.