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Leading the Way in Student Satisfaction

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Leading the Way in Student Satisfaction

Photo credit: Scott L. Huck/Cedarville University

by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio

January 23, 2009

Cedarville University has long held a reputation for academic excellence, biblical education, and Christ-centered campus life. With priorities like these, it’s no surprise that Cedarville's high standards have recently been affirmed by the people who matter most — students. According to the 2007-08 Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory, Cedarville received numerous first-place rankings.

When compared to all 288 private and public institutions that participated in the survey, Cedarville ranked #1 on seven out of 81 items, including commitment to academic excellence, variety of courses offered, and quality of the career services office. Cedarville also placed in the top five on almost half of the categories, which include excellent classroom instruction, knowledgeable faculty, clear channels of communication, welcoming environment, commitment to students with disabilities, and campus pride. Praise the Lord for these remarkable results!

When compared specifically to other Christian universities, Cedarville placed in the top five on 85 percent of the items and in the top 10 on 95 percent. Among Christian institutions, Cedarville ranked exceptionally high in its commitment to developing a strong spiritual climate on campus. Students report that being at Cedarville contributes to their spiritual growth, that their understanding of God is being strengthened, that they have plenty of opportunities for ministry involvement, and that faculty, staff, and administrators are helping them process issues related to faith.

As the survey indicates, one of Cedarville's distinctives is the unparalleled balance between spiritual development and academic excellence. Students are overwhelmingly satisfied with Cedarville's integration of these core values and repeatedly emphasize that what matters most to them is how well they learn and how they are growing in their relationship with Christ.

The survey also affirms that Cedarville is fulfilling students' primary expectations. They value high-quality instruction in the classroom; they want to know they are individually important; and they desire activities that promote a sense of campus pride and experiences that help them grow spiritually. In all of these areas, Cedarville is excelling.

This level of satisfaction not only influences current students but also positions Cedarville for future growth. Satisfied students are more likely to succeed, recommend Cedarville to their friends, and express a desire to contribute financially to their alma mater after graduation.

Of course, these strong results are no accident, and they were no surprise. According to Dr. Carl Ruby, vice president for student life, one word describes the University's approach to student satisfaction: intentional.

"We have a culture here that values quality," he says. "We've made a deliberate effort to listen to our students' input." Finding out where students are coming from means meeting them where they are. "We want to understand what they are talking about," Ruby says. "What are their frustrations? Their joys? What makes them glad to be at Cedarville?"

According to Dr. Ruby, Cedarville President Dr. Bill Brown plays a significant role in this process. Dr. Brown's interactions with students have allowed him to have a finger on the heartbeat of student life. He likes to pose the question, "What takes the joy out of being here?" Then he and the rest of Cedarville's faculty and staff make a point of listening to the answer.

For organizational communication major Hali Buck '09, it's all about that personal touch. "The staff and faculty give up their time to help us in our education," she says. "Cedarville definitely has a family atmosphere."

English major Asheritah Oana '10 agrees, saying, "My two years at Cedarville have only confirmed what I felt the first day I walked on campus: When you come here, you're not merely enrolling in a school — you're joining a family."

This family atmosphere contributes significantly to Cedarville's student-centered environment. It's no surprise, then, that the student body is overwhelming satisfied with their Cedarville experience.

Nevertheless, "being intentional about student satisfaction isn't just about being market-driven, Ruby says, "and it doesn't take away from the unique dynamics of the academic enterprise. It's about modeling a quest for excellence in all we do ... even in the way we provide services like housing, health care or advising."

Cedarville's main goal in responding to this survey will be to translate these numbers into an even higher retention rate. Though that rate is already strong at 85 percent, Ruby intends to see it slide over the 90 percent mark. Three things factor into that: financial aid, a clear academic plan and adequate support for struggling students.

In the meantime, the University will continue as it has — meeting students where they are and learning what motivates them, what makes them smile, what they want to change, and how everyone can work together to make Cedarville the best it can be.