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The 2013 Exit Survey of Graduate Students Completing Degrees continues the Office of Survey Research’s (OSR) survey of graduate students first initiated in 2009. The current survey was administered at the end of each quarter to students completing their graduate degree. This report summarizes responses from students who graduated in Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, and Summer 2013. Of the 266 recipients of this degree during this time, OSR received valid responses from 204, a response rate of 76.7%. Interestingly, while this response rate is higher than those from the Graduate Exit Surveys in the past, Western had fewer total graduate students complete their degrees between Fall 2012 and Summer 2013 than in either of the prior two years resulting in fewer total responses to this survey than in prior years. With the help of the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School, this survey was designed to elicit information on program satisfaction, the frequency and scope of academic interaction on and off campus, barriers to success, and plans for the future. OSR uses a mixture of online and telephone survey methodologies and links survey results with Western’s student records thus expanding their usefulness to researchers and university decision makers. The survey was launched with an e-mail invitation to potential respondents about four weeks prior to the end of each quarter. Follow up e-mail reminders were sent approximately every four days for the subsequent two weeks. Phone call reminders were placed to all non-respondents. The survey was closed immediately prior to commencement exercises. As with any survey, readers should be concerned with sample selection bias; that is bias which arises because survey respondents are not a random selection of the population of survey recipients. While sample selection bias for Western’s graduate exit survey is mitigated through proper survey techniques and limited by a high response rate, its presence should continually be kept in mind when evaluating results. Section A of this document presents basic descriptive statistics that compare all graduates with those who responded to the survey. At the university level, these comparisons reveal that the average respondent is nearly identical to the average graduate. For instance, 13% of respondents are minorities compared to 13% of all graduates. Similar results occur for average age (30.3 years for respondents, 30.7 years for graduates), the number of credit hours attempted (68.9 for respondents and 69.7 for graduates), the average graduate GPA (3.79 for respondents and 3.80 for graduates), and the quarter of graduation. Section B of this report presents all questions asked. Section C presents these questions broken down by college and,Sections D through G are further broken down to the departmental level for departments with enough respondents to prevent identification of individuals. Because CBE has only a single graduate program, we do not break their responses down further than the college level. While we leave it to the reader to determine what is interesting in the survey, here we highlight some of the findings. The first set of questions is geared to understanding students’ background and general satisfaction with their Western graduate school experience. Immediately prior to beginning their Western graduate program 36% of students were in an undergraduate program, 33% were employed in a field related to their graduate program, and 26% were employed in a field different than their program. Results are very similar to prior surveys. Sixty-nine percent of students claimed that, if given the opportunity, they would “probably” or “definitely” select Western again for graduate study, an amount similar to the 2012 survey but a decrease of five percent relative to the 2011 survey. Seventy percent would “probably” or “definitely” recommend Western to someone considering graduate school, a decrease of five percent relative to the prior year and nine percent lower than two years ago. Survey questions also relate to a student’s academic program. For instance, 86% of students reported that the level of academic challenge was “very” or “extremely” important to them and 73% of students claimed they were “satisfied “or “very satisfied “with the level of academic challenge. Perhaps the largest disparity occurred among the 74% of students who claimed that the “quality of instruction” was “extremely important” to them but only 26% of students said they were “very satisfied” with the quality of instruction. Working as a teaching assistant remains an important component of Western’s graduate program. Forty-six percent of respondents reported working as a TA in some capacity while pursuing their graduate degree. In their most recent TA position, respondents reported working an average of 18.5 hours per week. Eleven percent of graduate students taught an independent section of an undergraduate class; among these the median graduate student repeated this experience 6 times while in Western’s graduate program. The average graduate accumulates just over $19,700 in debt from their graduate program, a 10.6% increase over 2011. This average obscures the nearly one-third of students who leave Western without incurring any additional academic debt from their graduate studies. The average debt incurred for graduate students who do borrow is slightly over $28,300. There is large variation in amounts of student debt incurred between colleges. Graduates of CHSS incur 50% more debt that those of CBE who, in turn, accumulate about twice as much debt than students in CST. Among all graduate students, almost two-fifths hope to work in a school or community college. The remainders are fairly evenly split between non-profit employment, government employment, and pursuing further graduate study. Among those pursuing employment, at the time our survey was conducted, 45% had already received an offer of employment and 85% of those had accepted an offer. One-hundred percent of these had jobs in their field of study. As with all of OSR’s surveys of Western students, the data from this survey is available to campus researchers 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 graduates--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Attitudes
Title of Series
Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Survey Research) ; 2014-03
Barr, Michael; Clark, Linda D. (Linda Darlene); Hartsoch, Beth; and Krieg, John M., "2013 Exit Survey of Graduate Students Completing Degrees Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, and Summer 2013: Descriptive Statistics" (2014). Office of Survey Research. 538.
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