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The 2012 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 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, and Summer 2012. Of the 343 recipients of this degree during this time, OSR received valid responses from 247 (a response rate of 72.0%). 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, 10% of respondents are minorities compared to 11% of all graduates. Similar results occur for average age (30.7 years for respondents, 30.5 years for graduates), the number of credit hours attempted (69.3 for respondents and 68.8 for graduates), the average graduate GPA (3.76 for respondents and 3.75 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 to the departmental level in Sections D through H. Because CBE has only a single graduate program, we do not break their responses down further than the college level. As CFPA had a small number of graduates, these responses were included in the overall WWU results but, in order to protect student anonymity, were not disaggregated into a college report. 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 34% of students were in an undergraduate program, 37% were employed in a field related to their graduate program, and 25% were employed in a field different than their program. Results are very similar to prior surveys. Sixty-Eight percent of students claimed that, if given the opportunity, they would “probably” or “definitely” select Western again for graduate study, a decrease of six percent relative to the 2011 survey. Seventy-five percent would “probably” or “definitely” recommend Western to someone considering graduate school, a decrease of four percent relative to the prior year. 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 77% of students claimed they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the level of academic challenge they encountered. Seventy-eight percent were satisfied or very satisfied with their program. The most commonly reported barrier to academic progress was family obligations. Almost two-thirds of respondents claimed the availability (or lack thereof ) of faculty had no impact on their progress towards their degree, a significant increase over the prior year. The average graduate accumulates just over $17,800 in debt from their graduate program, a 5.7% 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 $25,000. 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 50% more debt than students in CST. 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)--Statistics
Title of Series
Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Survey Research) ; 2013-01
Krieg, John M.; Hartsoch, Beth; Clark, Linda D. (Linda Darlene); Felt, Peter; and Barr, Michael, "2012 Exit Survey of Graduate Students Completing Degrees Fall 2012, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, and Summer 2012: Descriptive Statistics" (2013). Office of Institutional Effectiveness. 546.
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