MADISON — Nearly three out of four new freshmen at University of Wisconsin (UW) System campuses are enjoying the experience of campus life, and 80% would attend the same institution if they had it to do over again.

These are some of the findings of a new survey, conducted in October 2000 and released this week by the UW System Market Research Unit. Approximately one third of the more than 23,000 new freshmen responded to the survey, which was administered using an on-line questionnaire. Freshmen at the freshman-sophomore UW Colleges were not included in the survey. The typical respondent was a “traditional” student: age 18, attending full-time, living in a residence hall. Highlights of the report include the following:

  • 73% of freshmen are “very” or “extremely satisfied” with their experience at the UW System institution they attend;
  • 41% are first-generation college students, i.e., neither parent graduated from college;
  • Among parents who have a college degree, 42% of the fathers and 40% of the mothers attended a UW System institution;
  • 88% of freshmen reported a high school grade point average of 3.0 or better (“A” = 4.0);
  • 72% own a personal computer, and 53% report spending 7 or more hours on-line per week;
  • 97% had visited their institution’s website (68% found it “extremely useful” or “very useful”);
  • 22% applied for admission to only one institution, while 22% applied to three or more;
  • 19% of all respondents applied for admission electronically;
  • 91% of those who applied to more than one institution enrolled at either their first (65%) or second (26%) choice of campus; and
  • Among “intended majors,” business (15%), education (12%), engineering (7%), health related (6%), and biology (5%) were the most popular choices, after “undecided” (24%).

The survey measured satisfaction by asking freshmen to respond to 36 statements in nine general categories: Quality of Instruction, Course Selection/Registration, Advising, Prestige/Payoff, Personal Attention, Administrative Services, Financial, Campus Involvement, and Diversity. Students used a five-point scale to rate the importance of each statement and their satisfaction with it.

In all nine categories, both importance and satisfaction were rated as significantly higher than “moderate” (the mid-point of the five-point scale). That means that the UW System is satisfying the attributes of a university that are most highly valued by students. Research suggests that increasing satisfaction ratings can lead to increased levels of student retention.

Among the nine categories:

  • Quality of Instruction had the highest level of importance to students and the highest level of satisfaction;
  • Course Selection and Registration had the second highest level of importance but a lower level of satisfaction, indicating an opportunity for improvement;
  • Financial (e.g., adequate financial aid, perception that students graduate with loan debt) registered the lowest level of student satisfaction, though students generally believe that the UW System “is a good value for the money”; and
  • Diversity was rated as the least important category, though still significantly higher than “moderate” in importance.

UW System institutions will use the findings to improve services to students and fine-tune their marketing techniques. For example, considering how many parents of students are UW System alumni — and knowing the significant role that parents play in the college choice decision — campuses might consider communication efforts directed toward parents and alumni. Also, where there is a significant difference between importance and satisfaction on one of the 36 statements, special efforts can be made to narrow that gap.

A similar survey will be conducted in 2002, according to Colleen Howes, director of the UW System Market Research Unit.

Media Contact

Kevin Boatwright UW System 608-263-2227