Two female students of different ages work together and support each other.

What Makes College Students Satisfied (and Why It Matters)

It makes sense that successful students are more likely to be satisfied with their education — but new scholarship suggests that it goes both ways. Students who are more satisfied with the experience they have at college are more likely to be successful in it.

“Several scholars have found that students’ college satisfaction predicts their likelihood of persisting and graduating,” The Urban Institute writes in their new report: Understanding Racial and Ethnic Differences in the College Experience

Research shows that many of the ways colleges can focus on student satisfaction are actually overlooked. 

There Is No “Average” Student, Only Individual Students

On the whole, the report says, “College students’ experiences vary significantly by race and ethnicity. Often, institutions prioritize structuring their undergraduate experience to cater to white students’ needs and desires.”

To increase the satisfaction of a greater diversity of students, colleges can challenge those assumptions and look more carefully not at an imaginary “average” student’s experience, but at the experiences of individual students with whom they’re actually working. Which is perhaps why, the Urban Institute notes, students of color tend to express more satisfaction at institutions like Historically Black Colleges and Universities that are designed to take their experiences into account.

What to Look for in a College

But there are a number of factors that determine satisfaction across many student identities:

  • Students express greater satisfaction with their education at non-profit institutions than for-profit institutions;
  • Students with higher levels of student debt tend to value their education less;
  • Students who attend colleges with higher completion rates tend to value their education more.

Whatever they do, students should avoid predatory, for-profit, colleges, which have the lowest levels of student satisfaction and the highest levels of student debt.

Reinforcing the Importance of Calbright’s Mission.  

It matters that people have access to a college education: right now, data shows that only the college educated are having an economic recovery. That’s why Calbright is designed to offer an education that meets all of the standards for student satisfaction to as many Californians as possible.

We are a public, non-profit institution whose students take on no debt. We are designed to make completing a career focused certificates as convenient as possible for people whose lives don’t fit a conventional education model. 

Furthermore, we emphasize a “high touch” approach to education that is unique among online colleges. We use the power of online communications to make our faculty and staff available to students – they can call, email, Zoom, Slack, and expect a response nearly any day, any time. We offer one-on-one coaching and career counseling, as well as study groups.

The goals students want to pursue through education aren’t the only thing that matters; it also matters if they feel supported, connected, and that what they’re being asked to do is achievable. When those conditions are created, students are more likely to be able to set and meet their goals. The Urban Institute’s research is a reminder that we’re on the right path, and that there’s always more to do.  

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