The purpose of this study was to examine the salient undergraduate student perceptions of service quality that predict student retention in the first two years. Data were collected utilizing the ACT, Incorporated Student Opinion Survey to gather student perceptions of service quality among 65 non-academic College Services and College Environment aspects. A total of 483 freshman and sophomore students of a large, Midwestern, four-year public research institution responded to the survey in the spring semester of 2012. The retention snapshot for the sample was collected in fall semester 2012, and 423 students were retained and 60 students were not retained.
Three research questions guided this study. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze Research Question 1, which examined satisfaction levels of College Services and College Environment among the freshman and sophomore class at the target university. Respondents gave the highest mean satisfaction score to Library Facilities and Services, followed by Student Union, Variety of Courses Offered, Overall Satisfaction, and Academic Calendar. Respondents gave the overall lowest mean satisfaction score to Parking Services.
Forward logistic regression was utilized to analyze Research Question 2, which examined which service quality items (2a) and factors (2b) best predict student retention in the first two years. Analysis of the individual service quality items revealed a significant four factor model which included Overall Satisfaction, Course Content in Major Field, Variety of Courses Offered, and Campus Media. While three of these items positively predicted retention status, Variety of Courses Offered revealed a negative relationship with retention status. Analysis of the service quality subscale factors revealed a one factor model with the factor of Academic - items relating to faculty, course offerings, and advising - best predicting student retention.
Finally, Pearson Correlation and forward multiple regression were used to analyze Research Question 3, which examined which College Services and College Environment satisfaction items best predict overall satisfaction with the institution. Results of the Pearson Correlation found 14 of the 23 College Services and all 41 College Environment items significantly correlated with Overall Satisfaction. The strongest relationships were found with Accuracy of Information Received before Enrolling, Preparation Received for Future Occupation, and Concern for You as an Individual. Results of the forward multiple regression revealed a seven-factor predictive model: Accuracy of the Information Received Before Enrolling, Preparation Received for Future Occupation, Student Union, Concern for You as an Individual, Variety of Courses Offered, Academic Calendar, and Food Services.
Based upon the results, three main conclusions were drawn: 1) overall student satisfaction with the institution is a significant predictor of student retention, 2) specific College Services and College Environment items predict overall satisfaction, and 3) while measuring the level of student satisfaction with non-academic services and environment is important, understanding which items play the most significant role in predicting overall satisfaction is critical to successful improvement activities.