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exit survey, graduating seniors, satisfaction, barriers to success, graduation delays, delayed graduation, major and upper division, upper division, post-graduation, post-graduation plans, course availability, time to graduation, time to degree, debt, educational debt, student loans, employment, natives, transfers


The Exit Survey of Undergraduate Students Completing Degrees in summer, 2012 through spring of 2013 (Exit Survey) is the fifth survey of graduating students conducted at Western Washington University. This survey is designed to illuminate departmental-, college-, and university-level information on student satisfaction, barriers to success, experiences in upper division courses, and post-graduation plans. The exit survey also includes questions submitted to the Office of Survey Research (OSR) by the Division of Enrollment and Student Services, Western Libraries, the Equal Opportunity Office, University Residences, the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, and a group of questions addressing online courses. The Exit Survey consists of a mixture of open-ended, multiple-choice and numerical response questions. This report provides descriptive statistics of those questions. This exit survey includes responses from undergraduates completing their degrees in summer 2012, fall 2012, winter 2013 and spring 2013. OSR initiated the Exit Survey during the fifth week of each quarter with an e-mail sent by the chair of the recipient’s major department. This e-mail requested that respondents complete the Exit Survey using a link embedded within the e-mail. A follow-up e-mail from OSR was typically sent three days later to non-respondents and then the process was repeated to non-respondent’s off-campus e-mail address about one week later. OSR then sent a reminder to internal email addresses the following week, and again to external addresses the subsequent week. Non-respondents were then contacted with phone call requests for their participation. This process ended the day before each quarter’s graduation exercises. Of the 3,096 graduates over this time, OSR received responses from 2,320, a response rate of 74.9%. As with any voluntary survey, readers should be concerned about sample selection bias; that is bias which arises because survey respondents are not a random selection from the population of survey recipients. While sample selection bias for the Exit Survey is mitigated through proper survey techniques and a high response rate, its presence should be considered when evaluating the data. Section A of this document reports basic demographic and academic statistics of graduates who responded to the survey and compares these to non-respondents. As found in the general literature on surveys, women were more likely to complete the survey (61.5% of respondents were women whereas 58.3% of graduates were women.) Respondents appear to be slightly better students as measured by the admissions index (average of 58.5 for respondents versus 57.3 for all graduates) and WWU GPA (average of 3.19 for respondents versus 3.16). In other ways, respondents and non-respondents were remarkably similar. The average and median age of respondents and non-respondents were nearly identical as were measures of first generation, transfer status, Washington residency, and cumulative WWU credits earned; and credits taken during their final quarter on campus were very similar. Because graduates of summer, fall, and winter quarters are potentially different than students who graduate in the spring, it may be difficult to include these students when making comparisons with surveys from the spring of 2011 and earlier which excluded these students.. Indeed, Section A.3 demonstrates that spring quarter graduates tend to have higher admissions indices than those graduating in other quarters (59.2 for spring quarter, 56.7 for summer quarter), have higher WWU GPAs, are less likely to be former running start students, and are more likely to be in a non-Bellingham program. The remainder of this report contains university-level summary statistics of each question asked (Section B.) This data is then disaggregated by college (Section C) and disaggregated again by department (Sections D through J.) Section K presents data from all questions by transfer/native-freshmen status. The appendices to this report present counts on two of the open ended questions: “In what ways has Western exceeded your expectations?” and “In what ways has Western fallen short of your expectations?” Hopefully, this disaggregation of data will aid colleges and departments in their self-assessment efforts. While OSR will leave it to the reader to decide what is informative or striking in this report, we undertake to point out some findings which the wider campus may find interesting. If provided the opportunity to start over, 85% of respondents would attend Western again; a number similar to those reported each year since OSR initiated exit surveys in 2009. Of those who would not attend Western again, the most frequently given reasons were that another school has a better program in the student’s field of study and the student felt a degree from another school would have been more valuable. It is important to note that these responses varied considerably across colleges with relative few CBE or Woodring students claiming another school had a better program. For students who took longer to graduate than expected, the most frequently cited reasons for the delays were “I was uncertain about which major to choose”, “I changed my major” and “I received poor advising prior to declaring my major.” When asked about their upper division studies, 89% of students expressed a positive level of satisfaction with the knowledge and expertise of faculty and 84% were positively satisfied with the level of academic challenge. Fifty-six percent of students collaborated with a professor on a research or creative project outside of class, and 69% of these students indicated that this experience contributed “quite a bit” or “a lot” to their learning. The average student graduated with an educational debt of just over $14,441, an increase of $400 over the prior year. However, this average hides the fact that 39% of graduates completed their education with no debt whatsoever. The average debt of those who did borrow was $26,102, an increase of $700. Fifteen percent of students indicated that their student loans impacted their decision to pursue a particular career. Fifty-eight percent of students indicated that their principal activity upon graduation was full-time employment while 15% expected to work part-time, decreases of 1% each over the past year. Of those expecting to work, 45% were looking for, but unable to find a job at the time of survey completion, exactly the same percentage as the prior year. Thirteen percent of graduates hoped to attend a graduate program and of these, 43% had accepted an offer of admission. One feature of the Exit Survey is that respondents are tracked using their W number which provides OSR the opportunity to merge the student data with Western’s records and past OSR surveys. This ability profoundly opens the door to analysis of longitudinal issues that would otherwise be impossible. OSR is happy to share data or provide survey services upon request.




Digital object produced by Office of Survey Research, Western Washington University, and made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

College students--Washington (State)--Statistics--College students--Washington (State)--Attitudes

Title of Series

Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Survey Research) ; 2014-02






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