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Exit survey, graduating students, graduates, completing degrees, comparison, graduates and respondents, comparison of graduates and respondents, university-level responses, college-level responses, woodring college of education, college of humanities and social sciences, Huxley college, college of sciences and technology, attending graduate school, graduate school, academic program, programs, professional development, graduate study, graduate study at western, plans for the future


Executive Summary: The 2011 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 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, and Summer 2011. Of the 322 recipients of this degree during this time, OSR received valid responses from 239 (a response rate of 74.2%). 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 then placed to all non-respondents. The survey was then 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, 23% of respondents are minorities compared to 24% of all graduates. Similar results occur for average age (30 years for respondents, 30 years for graduates), the number of credit hours attempted (70.0 for respondents and 69.9 for graduates), the average graduate GPA (3.81 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, for questions with enough responses to prevent identification of individuals, these are further broken down in Sections D through H by department. The final section of this report presents questions submitted by the Department of Communication and Sciences and Disorders. 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 37% of students were in an undergraduate program, 32% were employed in a field related to their graduate program, and 26% were employed in a field different than their program. Seventy-Four percent of students claimed that, if given the opportunity, they would “probably” or “definitely” select Western again for graduate study. Seventy-nine percent would “probably” or “definitely” recommend Western to someone considering graduate school. These satisfaction levels are almost identical with those reported on the 2009 and 2010 exit surveys. Survey questions also relate to a student’s academic program. For instance, 87% of students reported that the level of academic challenge was “very” or “extremely” important to them and 76% of students claimed they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the level of academic challenge they encountered. Eighty-three percent were satisfied or very satisfied with their program. The most commonly reported barrier to academic progress was family obligations. Almost three-fifths of respondents claimed the availability (or lack thereof) of faculty had no impact on their progress towards their degree. The average graduate accumulates just over $16,900 in debt from their graduate program but this average obscures the nearly one-third of students who leave Western without any additional academic debt from their program. The average debt of $16,900 is about $2,800 higher than the previous year and, as seen in Section C, there is a large variation in this average across colleges with graduates from CFPA incurring twice the debt of CBE students who, in turn, incur almost 6 times the debt of CST students. One benefit of the graduate exit survey is that the data is tracked by a unique student identifier which allows OSR to divide the data by school or program. OSR hopes to share this data with administrators and individuals who hope to improve their programs.




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) ; 2011-08






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