THE USE OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING TECHNIQUES
IN HIGHER EDUCATION: A CASE STUDY
Judy Mary Campbell
B.A., Otterbein College, 1984 M.S., Chapman University, 1997
A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Educational Leadership and Innovation
I would like to acknowledge and thank the Chair of my Dissertation Committee, Dr. Michael Murphy for his support, patience, and advice over the last two years. I would also like to extend my warm thanks to the other members of my committee, Dr. Laura Goodwin, Dr. Michael Martin, and Dr. Clifford Young for their generous support.
I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Maria Gier, she gave me my first job in higher education and has been a good friend for many years. Her encouragement and guidance throughout the years has been immeasurable.
In addition, I wish to acknowledge Mark Velat for his continued understanding and patience throughout this process. And lastly, a very special thanks to Peter Bemski for his friendship and support throughout the last four years.
Background of the Problem......................3
Structure of Dissertation.....................14
2. LITERATURE REVIEW....................................15
Relationship Marketing and
College C.......................................... 58
Cross Case Analysis..................................75
Institutional Similarities and
Retention Strategies Similarities
Summary of Findings......................86
Discussion of Findings...................95
Recommendations for Practice............100
Recommendations for Future Study........102
A. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK MODELS..................104
B. CASE STUDY METHOD............................109
C. CODING TREE..................................Ill
D. INSTITUTIONAL PROFILES AND CARNEGIE CLASSIFICATIONS OF INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER
E. FOLLOW-UP LETTER AND
F. INTERVIEW GUIDE..............................127
H. DOCUMENT REVIEW FORM.........................137
Higher education is facing a variety of challenges as we enter the 21st century. These challenges will inevitably change the way higher education thinks about its students. Many of the issues confronting higher education are in response to a changing marketplace. Higher education is no longer a luxury but a requirement for employment and prosperity for not only the individual but for the United States. Higher education is the investment of an educated, productive workforce that will benefit society (Callan, 2000; Camevale, 1999).
There is also a greater emphasis on accountability, assessment, technology, and learning then in years past. Constituents such as the federal government, state legislatures, the community, students, and their parents are demanding more from institutions of higher education. The fixture prosperity, growth, and develop of the economy is dependent upon the educational achievement of its people. Higher education is in part responsible to ensure the continued growth of the nation by developing an educated workforce (Callan, 2000).
A report by The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education [NCPPHE] (2000), Measuring Up 2000, reflects the already growing concern
over the accountability of higher education to its constituents. One such accountability measure is retention. Retention is defined in the study by two characteristics: persistence and completion. Persistence is defined as a student who has returned to college after her/his freshmen year. Persistence rates for four-year institutions varied from 62% in Idaho to 84% in Connecticut. Completion rates are defined by the number of students who make progress toward and complete their certificates and degrees. Nationally, only 52% of the full-time, first-time freshmen at four-year institutions earn a bachelors degree within five years.
Legislators, administrators and the community are obviously concerned about the drop out rates of students. Low retention rates can reflect a poor image to students and can reduce the institutions ranking in academic circles. Low retention rates can also mean reduced tuition dollars, which can affect institutional budgets. In addition, a high drop out rate can lead to reduced state appropriations, which can also affect operating funds.
A survey by The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government found that at least 50% of the states are moving toward the use performance indicators, such as persistence and completion, and tying those indicators to state appropriations (Burke & Serban, 1998). Even from an economic standpoint, it is more cost effective to retain students then continuously recruit new students.
The State of Colorado has yet to tie funds to accountability measures but it does expect state-funded institutions to meet certain quality indicators. The State of Colorado General Assembly passed the Higher Education Quality Assurance Act in 1996 (HB96-1219). It was not until 1999 under the administration of Governor Bill Owens that SB 99-229 established specific directives for public institutions of higher education. One of those quality indictors measures freshman persistence and assesses the institutions ability to retain a student through the first year and beyond (Executive Summary, 2000). Even though state appropriations are not tied to the quality indictors, public institutions of higher education in Colorado are held accountable for retention.
Retaining students and seeing them through to graduation is an important responsibility of higher education. With 56% of all jobs requiring a bachelors degree, it is even more important to see students complete their degrees and graduate (Camevale, 1999). The marketplace demands an educated workforce but that can only happen if students persist and graduate. The purpose of this research is to investigate the use of relationship marketing by public institutions of higher education in Colorado as a tool for retention.
Background of the Problem
Higher education has a responsibility to its constituents to retain students and help them achieve their goals. These students, in turn, then use their
education to better themselves and their community. Therein lies the problem: how to retain and graduate students so that they can become productive citizens.
Higher education has begun to see a number of external pressures that make it more difficult to retain students. The growing economy, changes in student demographics and attitudes about education have made the retention of college students difficult. Career oriented students, who are market savvy consumers, are making decisions that affect persistence and completion of degree programs. Traditional as well as non-traditional adult students are placing greater emphasis on degrees and courses that lead to well-paid jobs rather than the importance placed on the educational experience by institutions of higher education (Ehrlich, 2000; Hendley, 2000).
Levine (2000) suggested there will be many changes facing the future of higher education in response to these external pressures. According to Levine, there will be an increase in educational providers and their offerings will become more diverse. There will be a shift from teaching to learning and college degrees will become less valuable. Higher education will also focus more on the individual student with customized learning plans and services.
Higher education is beginning to respond to the pressures and demands of students as consumers. There are already numerous and diverse educational providers and many of these providers are already making the move from degrees to skill-based coursework to meet the demands of students. In addition,
providers are mimicking business with customer service, individualized education programs, and attention to the students educational desires. These providers are presenting alternatives that are attractive to the consumer-minded student and creating a more competitive environment.
As institutions of higher education struggle for competitive advantage, they must examine new ways to compete and improve service and responsiveness. Increasingly, institutions are recognizing that administrative and bureaucratic functions, rules, and regulations can be eliminated with no corresponding diminution in quality of service of program. Competitive advantage grows from improvement, innovation, and change. It involves the entire value system of the organization. It can often only begun if we break the mold with which we currently work. It can only be sustained through relentless advancement (Penrod & Dolence, 1992, p. 19).
Penrose and Dolence (1992) discussed the need to change the organizational culture of higher education to meet the future, in order to respond to the concerns over costs, student consumerism, and changes on the horizon for higher education.
The first is customer focus. There are internal customers such as students, staff, or other academic or administrative units; and there are external customers including taxpayers, parents, alumni, donors, and outside agencies. Customer focus means meeting the customers' real needs. The best way to do that is by asking how their needs might be better metand then doing it (Penrose & Dolence, 1992, p. 20)."
The student in higher education is both a customer as well as a product of the educational system. This means that the student is both an external and internal customer at the same time. The student as both customer and product should be reflected in the marketing and retention strategies that are established by the institution (Conway, 1996).
"... higher education must adjust to accommodate learners. Consumers will exert their inexorable influence on higher education. The era of a campuscentric model is ending (Twigg & Oblinger, 1997, para. 34). The sheer numbers of potential students, both traditional age and adult learners, combined with changing student attitudes about education, are moving the needs and wants of the student to the forefront. There has been a significant call to transform higher education by borrowing from business and re-engineering higher education (Dolence & Norris, 1995; Penrod & Dolence, 1992).
Theres no doubt that the university of the future will require some out-of-the box thinking, and a major revision in culture and organization (Peppers & Rogers, 1998, p. 67). The revision or re-engineering of higher education has already begun with the look, language and strategies of business. In order to meet the increasing demands and needs of students, institutions must recognize the need for a new vision.
To meet the challenge posed by these external influences, colleges and universities must cultivate a continuous stream of leadership and develop an administrative infrastructure which is optimized for service, speed, quality, and productivity (Katz & West, 1992, p. 1).
One vision for the student-customer is through the use of relationship marketing, which has its roots in business (Appendix A). The purpose of relationship marketing is to
. establish, maintain, enhance and commercialize customer relationships (often but not necessarily always long term relationships) so that the objectives of the parties involved are met. This is done by a mutual exchange and fulfillment of promises (Gronroos, 1990, p. 5)
Relationship marketing strategies are characterized by several attributes, which enhances the rapport with the customer in such a way that it leads to a long-term, mutually beneficial interaction for both parties.
Relationship marketing focuses on the customer as a distinct individual with unique wants and needs. This focus leads organizations to develop individualized communications, customized goods and services, and creates a learning relationship with the customer (Gilmore & Pine, 2000; Peppers & Rogers, 1993, 1997; Peppers, Rogers, & Dorf, 2000; Pine, Peppers, & Rogers, 2000). Concentrating on the customer also reflects a genuine concern for the welfare and satisfaction of that customer (Buttle, 1996).
In addition, the organization makes a commitment to the customer to be honest, fair, provide excellent service, and quality products (Buttle, 1996). A key to this commitment is that it needs to be mutually beneficial. The organization and the customer must both be satisfied and remain loyal to each other.
However, there are times in the organization-customer relationship that the interaction is not mutually beneficial and the organization or the customer must decide to leave the relationship. A relationship, which is not mutually beneficial, is not conducive to good business practices (Peppers & Rogers, 1993, 1997;
Shani & Chalasani, 1993). Relationship marketing and its characteristics lead to a long-term relationship that keeps the customer loyal to the organization (Peppers & Rogers, 1993, 1997).
Ultimately, strategies for retention aim for satisfaction by the customer or student, so he/she will continue to purchase that item, service, or education that is provided by the organization or institution. There are many factors that influence the level of satisfaction by a customer or student. Two such factors, consumer culture and expectations are affecting the attitudes of customers not only in business but in higher education.
Consumers as well as students expect more from the companies and the educational institutions that they patronize. These expectations for high quality products, excellent service, individual attention, and anytime transactions are driving a change in consumer attitudes. Consumer culture has played a large role
in the consumers attitude. Consumer culture and consumer demand is being driven by many factors including, an increase in availability and variety of products, increase in shopping opportunities, and consumer protection (Lury, 1996). This demand has pushed the envelope of expectations that customers have on businesses or institutions (Gray, 1983; Lury, 1996; Stark, 1977).
Consumers today are used to making purchases and communicating anyplace and at anytime. This customer is accustom to buying on-line, using cellular phones and communicating via e-mail. This new student-customer .. .will neither understand nor content themselves with less from their campus environments (Katz & West, 1992, p. 16). Students now expect to purchase books, register, pay bills, and review transactions all on-line. In order for institutions to attract and retain student customers, higher education must change the way it thinks about its students.
Expectations and satisfaction are interconnected. If expectations are not met then satisfaction by the customer is not met and the customer leaves the relationship. Bluedoms (1982) unified model of turnover by employees parallels the behavior of consumers. The individual employed by an organization has expectations about that organization and their position as an employee. If those expectations are not met, job satisfaction declines, which leads to a decline in commitment to that organization. The end result, just as in consumer behavior, the individual leaves the organization.
Satisfaction is key to retaining customers. Stodt (1987) suggested that there are three institutional factors that influence retention of students: academic, administrative policies and student life. Dissatisfaction of the academic performance by either the college or the student indicates a need to discontinue the relationship. Research has shown a high correlation between academic performance and persistence (Getzlaf, Sedlacek, Kearney, & Blackwell, 1984; Pantages & Creedon, 1978; Tinto, 1975, 1993; Webb, 1988).
Several researchers have reported that students who are dissatisfied with administrative policies or the resolution of problems are more likely to leave the institution (Demitroff, 1974; Heverly, 1999; Pantages & Creedon, 1978). The research also suggests that students perception of student life can lead to dissatisfaction and attrition. Student life can reflect the relationship between the student and other students, faculty and staff (Beatty-Guenter, 1994; Jones, 1986; Nippert, 2000-2001; Pantages & Creedon, 1978; Tinto, 1990). It also refers to the student environment fit with the mission and vision of the institution (Peltier, Laden & Mantranga, 1999; Tinto, 1993). Students who do not feel this connection or bond with the institution will not be retained.
Tintos (1990) principles of retention match remarkably the characteristics and attributes of relationship marketing. The first principle emphasizes the personal relationship and bond that is developed by the student with other students, faculty and staff. The second principle reflects an enduring
institutional commitment to the welfare of the student. The third principle fulfills the promise to provide social and intellectual growth through a quality education. The fourth principle underscores the importance of the student environment fit in determining what students should be retained. Finally, Tinto points out that when the institution considers the welfare of the student a priority, it can mean letting a student leave rather than retaining that student.
Relationship marketing and higher education retention strategies are attempting to achieve the same end result. That result is the satisfaction and retention of students that ultimately leads to a long-term relationship.
Relationship marketing is another vehicle that can assist institutions of higher education in the satisfaction and retention of its student-customer.
The retention of college students continues to be an issue of importance for higher education. In recent years, it has become an important criterion in the accountability measures, which rely heavily on persistence and completion rates. Retention of students is important to the survival of an institution as more competitors enter the market and attract students away from traditional avenues of higher education. Pressures by external constituents including student-customers are impacting the way higher education does business. The purpose of
this research is to investigate the use of relationship marketing techniques by
public institutions of higher education in Colorado as a tool for retention.
The specific research questions are:
1. What relationship marketing techniques are being used by public institutions of higher education in Colorado?
2. To what extent are relationship marketing techniques being used by public institutions of higher education in Colorado?
3. Why are these institutions of higher education using relationship marketing techniques?
4. What are the similarities and differences in the use of relationship marketing by different Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education?
Businesses are using relationship marketing strategies to gain competitive advantage, develop long-term relationships and retain customers for a life-time.
It can be suggested that higher education may be using relationship marketing for the same reasons that business use these techniques but it is necessary to understand the institutional reason for using these strategies. It is important to assess how much an institution has implemented relationship marketing strategies and to what extent are those institutions using those strategies.
The methodology for this study was an exploratory case study. This study did include the use of interviews, a questionnaire, and a document review for each institution. Each institution was considered its own case study since their demographics and administrations were unique.
The institutions studied were public higher education institutions in Colorado. There were five institutions chosen and three Carnegie Classifications of Higher Education were represented. The participants from the chosen institutions were selected based on their responsibility for institutional retention. The participants included such individuals as the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice President for Enrollment Management. Other individuals were interviewed, as needed.
Data analyses resulted in a portrait of each of the institutions. This portrait or synopsis was used to define and describe relationship marketing and retention strategies used by these institutions. In addition, the synopsis for each institution was used in a cross-case analysis to evaluate the differences found between the institutions.
Structure of the Dissertation
This dissertation consists of five chapters. Chapter One includes an introduction and background of the problem, conceptual framework, research questions and a brief overview of the methodology. Chapter Two presents a review of the literature on retention in higher education and relationship marketing. Chapter Three describes the methodology of the research including the instrumentation, data collection, and data analysis. Chapter Four presents the results of the research. Finally, Chapter Five summarizes the findings and implications of the research for institutions of higher education in Colorado attempting to utilize relationship marketing for retention purposes.
Higher education is facing a multitude of challenges in part from the growing demand for educated workers. However, this demand is also fueling a greater emphasis on accountability, assessment, technology and learning. Rooted within these values is a consumer-oriented environment requiring institutions of higher education to re-evaluate the way it thinks about the educational process.
Businesses have already begun to change their approach to customers based on this environment. Consumerism and consumer expectations have gained greater influence on customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is vital to the survival of the business, without satisfaction, there will be no customers.
The purpose of this research is to investigate the use of relationship marketing by public institutions of higher education in Colorado as a tool for retention. There are four questions that will be answered by this study. What relationship marketing strategies are being used by institutions of public higher education in Colorado? To what extent are relationship marketing techniques being used by public institutions of higher education in Colorado? Why are these institutions using relationship marketing techniques? And finally, what are the
similarities and differences in the use of relationship marketing by different
Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education?
This literature review will explore the definition of relationship marketing and the use of relationship marketing techniques in non-profit organizations. It will also delve into the areas of consumerism and consumer expectations and how they are related to customer satisfaction. Finally, this literature review will summarize results of retention studies and their findings related to higher education.
The traditional marketing mix management paradigm is slowly shifting to an emphasis of customer retention, market economies and customer relationship economics (Gronroos, 1994). This concept is being driven by more intense competition, fragmentation of markets and more demanding customers who have rapidly changing customer buying patterns (Buttle, 1996). This change in customer attitudes has changed the direction of marketing.
The marketing strategy continuum reflects transaction marketing on the far left of the continuum and relationship marketing on the far right. There are fundamental differences between transaction marketing and relationship marketing. Transactional marketing requires a short-term focus, quality products, price sensitivity and ad hoc customer satisfaction surveys.
Relationship marketing, however, has a long-term focus, quality interactions with the customer, not as price sensitive and real time customer feedback (Gronross, 1991).
The purpose of relationship marketing is to . establish, maintain,
enhance and commercialize customer relationships (often but not necessarily always long term relationships) so that the objectives of the parties involved are met. This is done by a mutual exchange and fulfillment of promises (Gronroos, 1990, p. 5). This definition reveals a variety of underlying concepts that make up the relationship between the organization and the customer. These concepts includes the development of learning relationships and individualized communications (Peppers & Rogers, 1993; Peppers, Rogers, & Dorf, 2000; Pine, Peppers, & Rogers, 2000), commitment and concern for the customer (Buttle, 1996; Gronroos, 1990, 1994), trust between the customer and the organization (Buttle, 1996; Gronroos, 1990, 1994), mutually beneficial interactions (Buttle, 1996; Gronroos, 1990, 1994; Peppers & Rogers, 1993), and long-term customer loyalty (Buttle, 1996; Peppers & Rogers, 1993; Shani & Chalasani, 1993).
Relationship marketing tackles the challenge of a changing marketplace by establishing a learning relationship with the customer (Peppers & Rogers, 1993; Peppers, Rogers, & Dorf, 2000; Pine, Peppers, & Rogers, 2000). The learning relationship is a mutually beneficial set of communications where the individual customer teaches the company or institution about their preferences
and needs. The more the organization or institution can learn about the customer the better they will be able to respond and make it more difficult for the customer to be enticed away by a competitor (Pine, Peppers, & Rogers, 2000).
Individualized communication refers to collaboration, listening and engaging the customer in dialogue that appropriately assesses the customers needs, in relationship to what the company or institution is providing. The organization or institution utilizes this dialogue as a way of gathering information from the customers so to better provide services and products. It also allows for creativity and anticipation of future needs (Pepper, Rogers, & Dorf, 2000; Pine, Peppers, & Rogers, 2000).
In an attempt to further interact more effectively with the individual customer, organizations began to customize products and services to specifically meet their customers needs. Customization of products and services has grown out of the era of mass production. Mass production, the process by which standardized, low-cost, consistent quality products were created and sold on the market, no longer fits in the emerging marketplace (Pine, 1999). Mass customization, on the other hand, is the answer to a society that wants a variety of choices and products designed with their individual tastes in mind. Mass customization calls for a customer-centered orientation in production and delivery processes, requiring the company to collaborate with individual
customers to design each ones desired product or service... (Pine, Peppers, & Rogers, 2000, p. 55).
Relationship marketing is the genuine desire of the organization or institution to be concerned for the welfare and satisfaction of its customer. It is about preserving a long-term relationship with that customer through dialogue, excellent service, and an organizational commitment to quality in all aspects of its business (Buttle, 1996; Gronroos, 1990, 1994). At its best, relationship marketing is characterized by a genuine concern to meet or exceed the expectations of customers and to provide service in an environment of trust and commitment to the relationship (Buttle, 1996, p. 13).
Trust in the organization is key to the development of the long-term relationship with the customer (Buttle, 1996; Gronroos, 1994). An organization that gives promises but does not keep those promises, may initially attract customers and begin to develop relationships. However, if promises are not kept, the evolving relationship cannot be maintained or enhanced (Gronroos,
1994, p. 9).
In addition to trust, the relationship must be mutually beneficial. There are times in the customer-organization relationship that one or the other discovers that the relationship is no longer valuable. In order to develop a long-term commitment, the relationship must be valuable to both parties (Buttle, 1996; Gronroos, 1990, 1994; Peppers & Rogers, 1993).
Relationship marketing changes the company or institutional focus from continuous recruitment to retaining existing customers and growing that bond. Relationship marketing emphasizes the share of customer rather than share of market. By concentrating on the share of customer, the organization or institution focuses on building a long-term relationship that extends beyond one product but to a lifetime (Buttle, 1996; Peppers & Rogers, 1993; Shani & Chalasani, 1993).
Relationship marketing is a new approach to attracting and retaining customers. It is a complex tool for developing relationships with customers and through the development of these relationships the organization strives for longterm customer loyalty.
Relationship Marketing and Nonprofits/Higher Education Higher education and other non-profits are not strangers to the traditional concept of marketing. No matter the product, whether it is intangible such as education or as tangible as a book at the library it is ... an offering designed to prompt some kind of exchange relationship with members of the market (Berry & George, 1978, p. 161). In addition, the survival of the organization depends on a continuous stream of individuals wanting to be involved in that exchange relationship. In order to engage new customers, whether they are students,
donors or patrons, the organization must effectively market their goods and services.
Marketing in higher education and non-profits has been difficult. Many simply see their product or service as inherently desirable. They find it hard to believe that anyone would turn them down (Kotler & Andreasen, 1987, p. 45)! However, it is becoming more apparent that businesses and nonprofits are not as different as they seem. Both face high competition from a variety of sources for the same potential customer (Berry & George, 1978).
This high level of competition is spurring businesses to utilize relationship marketing techniques to assist them in recruiting and retaining customers. Institutions of higher education and non-profits can also utilize these techniques. Nonprofit agencies have unique characteristics that mesh well with a relationship marketing strategy (McCort, 1994, p. 54). Relationship marketing and the non-profit organization both emphasize the need for fostering long-term and mutually beneficial relationships (McCort, 1994).
The use of relationship marketing in higher education will transform the way it does business. Relationship marketing techniques such as individualized attention and communication, and developing long-term relationships will change the way higher education thinks about its students. In the near future, the success of an institution of higher education will depend on treating
..different customers differently based on whether a particular individual is looking for a four-year socialization experience, personal enrichment and the satisfaction of curiosity, preparation for the current job she has or the next one she wants, or something else (Peppers & Rogers, 1998, p. 48).
Peppers and Rogers (1998) relate a vision of the future of higher education. The future university would have on-line registration, personal course planner, web calendar, and customized enrollment statement (already available to students at the University of Minnesota). The student might also receive individualized communications about upcoming events, registration information and career opportunities. The university would know the student and his/her wants and needs. This learning relationship benefits both the student and the institution with rewards of retention, satisfaction and loyalty.
The key value to relationship marketing is the development of the longterm relationship and what that means to the institution.
The ideal expression of actual valuation is customer lifetime value (LTV), that is, the stream of expected future value, net of costs, of a students monetary and other contributions, discounted at some appropriate rate back to its net present value (Pepper & Rogers, 1998, p. 57).
The lifetime value of a student is more than just the price of tuition; it also includes referrals, donations, successful graduation and employment (Peppers & Rogers, 1998).
The university graduating class of2001 was bom into a society full of changes. This society holds greater opportunities, advancements in technology, and immense political upheaval. Along with societal and political changes came, what appears to be, greater material wealth, health, and a better world in which to live (Levine & Cureton, 1998).
College students of the 21st Century are much different from the traditional student of past generations. Only one in six students is truly a traditional student. In addition to non-traditional adult students returning to college, most students now work and have family obligations that keep them from the traditional concepts of campus life. When asked by researchers what students did for fim, 30% said that they had no social life and 11% responded that they slept. College students also put greater emphasis on higher education as a way to careers, jobs and financial security (Levine & Cureton, 1998). College students today, whether traditional or non-traditional see their future careers riding on the back of higher education. It is no wonder that students demand more from their institutions.
As a consequence, older, part-time and working students, especially those with children, often say they want a different type of relationship with their colleges from one undergraduates have historically had. They prefer a relationship like those they already enjoy with their bank, the telephone company, and the supermarket (Levine & Cureton, 1998, p. 50).
The influence of the consumer culture has changed students attitudes towards education. Modem consumption has changed drastically with the advent of technology, the increase in consumer goods, and consumer protection. The availability of an assortment of goods through a variety of outlets for shopping has created a more competitive environment (Lury, 1996). This is certainly the case with businesses as well as higher education. There are a multitude of choices in clothes, electronics and now higher education. The increase in choices has opened the door for consumers to demand more and have greater expectations of the supplier.
Consumer protection has also played a role in the changing attitudes of college students. The late 1970s provided legislation for consumer protection in higher education through the truth-in-advertising model (Stark, 1977).
The new notion of consumer protection in postsecondary education implies a new understanding of accountabilitythat of a reciprocal student-institution relationship that is built on mutual responsibility of the parties to each
other and to a goal beyond themselvesthe educational process (Stark, 1977, p. 16).
The college student of today is much more consumer oriented due to changes in the marketplace and the rise of consumer protection. Satisfaction is derived from the expectations and demands placed on the institution by the student, who are faced with external pressures on their time, finances and careers. This generation of students places its values in the consumer culture.
In higher education as in business, students will remain loyal to the institutions as long as expectations are met. Students expect the educational experience or services that the institution provides to meet specific desires and needs. When a students expectations are met, the student is satisfied and will continue the relationship. However, when expectations are not met and the student is not satisfied, attrition occurs and the student seeks to complete their education elsewhere. A related concept to customer or student attrition is employee turnover. Just as students have expectations of the interactions with an organization, employees have expectations about the job and the organization in which they work.
Bluedorns (1982) Unified Model of Employee Turnover parallels the actions of customers or students in a consumer relationship. Bluedoms Unified Model is a synthesis of three models of employee turnover that focuses on voluntary separations. Each of the three models points towards dissatisfaction resulting from a disconnect between expectations and experiences with the organization as the cause for the voluntary separation
New employees who enter a company have formed expectations about the organization prior to their employment. The more realistic the expectation, the greater the level of satisfaction the employee has about her/his job (Wanous, 1980). The model specifies that this set of expectancies will interact with the organization the experiences to produce satisfaction (Bluedom, 1982, p. 90). This combination of expectations and experiences shape job satisfaction in a way that leads the employee to either stay with the organization or leave voluntarily. As job satisfaction decreases, due to the disconnect between expectations and experiences, the employees commitment to the organization decreases leading to eventual voluntary separation (Bluedom, 1982).
This model parallels the actions of a student attending higher education for the first time. The student has preconceived expectations of their enrollment in an institution of higher education. As the student begins to experience academic life, he/she will relate those experiences to their expectations. If their expectations are not met, the student will not be satisfied with the educational
experience and leave the institution. Expectations influence the level of satisfaction felt by the student, which in turn influences the level of commitment and ultimately their graduation from that institution.
More students leave their college or university prior to degree completion than stay (Tinto, 1993, p. 1). The statistics for degree completion in 2000 demonstrate that retention is still an issue with only 52% of full-time, firsttime freshmen completing their bachelors degree within five years (NCPPHE, 2000). Retention continues to be a'concern for not only higher education administrators but legislatures as well.
Tinto (1993) organized the reasons for departure from higher education into three categories. The first category reflects the personal disposition of the student as he/she enters college. This disposition is reflected in the commitment and intention of the student towards their educational goals. The intention of the student to achieve their educational or career goals is an important predictor in the likelihood that the individual will complete their degree (Astin, 1975; Bean, 1982; Panos & Astin, 1968). It is with this commitment and intention that the student works towards the goals that he/she has set.
The second category reflects the individuals experience once they enroll at an institution of higher education. The student faces issues of adjustment,
difficulties (academic or social), incongruence with the institution, and possible isolation (Tinto, 1993). Students may struggle with identity issues, career choices, self-confidence, and value formation (Stodt, 1987). These issues can interfere with the students educational endeavors. Poor academic performance can have a markedly detrimental affect on the students ability to complete their education. There is a high correlation between academic performance and persistence in college (Aitken, 1982; Spady, 1970). Poor academic preparation is frequently sighted as a reason why students leave higher education (Bean & Metzner, 1985; Keim, 1981).
Incongruence or incompatibility and isolation of the student can lead to dissatisfaction. The lack of social and academic integration is an important factor influencing attrition. Students who feel alienated by the institution, its faculty and staff, and other students are likely to leave the institution (Heverly, 1999; Keim, 1981; Pascarella, Smart & Ethington, 1986; Tinto, 1993).
The final category takes into account the external obligations and finances that can affect,a students ability to complete their education (Tinto, 1993). Non-traditional students as well as traditional students face a greater number of external forces, which can derail their educational goals. More students have to work, have families and attend school part-time than in previous generations of students (Levine & Cureton, 1998). Even though many traditional students face these external issues, the hardest hit are the non-traditional adult
students who become dissatisfied with the educational process and leave higher education altogether (Bean & Metzner, 1985; Grimes & Antworth, 1996; Kinnick & Ricks, 1993).
Administrative policies and problem resolution also affect retention (Heverly, 1999; Stodt, 1987). Heverly (1999) focused her research on the administrative processes of an institution of higher education. Heverly found that returning students were significantly more satisfied with processes than non-returning students. Student interviews found that 20% had received wrong information, 11% received incorrect information about their financial aid and 11% had received billing errors. Students that received wrong information were more likely to feel alienated by the institution and were at greater risk of withdrawing.
There are numerous reasons for students to leave higher education. However, there are even more important reasons for students to complete their education. Research in this area needs to continue to assist administrators in the battle against attrition.
Retention is just one of the many challenges facing higher education today. Todays college student faces external pressures and obligations, which distract them from their educational goals. Retention is reflected by student
satisfaction and it has become harder to satisfy these students who are more consumer-oriented, market savvy, and have high expectations of the institution. Relationship marketing holds promise as another avenue for higher education in the struggle to satisfy the students wants and needs.
Higher education is facing not only a changing student population but also a change in students attitudes. As students become more market savvy and consumer oriented, higher education must begin to respond in similar ways. The purpose of this study is to investigate the use of relationship marketing strategies by public institutions of higher education in Colorado.
In order to understand relationship marketing within the context of higher education, it is important to know what relationship marketing strategies are being used by public institutions of higher education in Colorado. In addition, to what extent is relationship marketing being used by public institutions of higher education in Colorado? Why are public institutions of higher education in Colorado using relationship marketing techniques? And finally, what are the similarities and differences in the use of relationship marketing by different Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education?
The chapter is organized into five sections. The first section discusses the methodological approach and reasons for using this approach. The second section focuses on the institutions and study participants. The third section discusses the researchers role in the creation of the instrument and contact with
the participants. The fourth section focuses on the data collection methods and analysis procedures. The final section is a summary of the key points in the chapter.
The methodology used for this research is an exploratory case study. This type of case study is justifiable when ... developing hypotheses and propositions for further inquiry (Yin, 1994, p. 5). Relationship marketing is a relatively new concept and even more so in higher education. The use of the exploratory case study is appropriate, since a goal of the study is to establish a definition of relationship marketing within the context of higher education.
This exploratory case study included the use of interviews, a questionnaire, and a document review related to the performance of the institution in regards to relationship marketing. The data collected were descriptive in nature and will come from multiple sources. Each institution was considered its own case study, since each institution has a unique population, administration and Carnegie Classifications. Similarities and differences that emerge from the cases are discussed. A visual representation of the case study can be found in Appendix B.
The target population for this study was public higher education institutions in the State of Colorado. At least one institution from the three following major categories of the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education was chosen. The major categories of classifications are Doctorate-granting Institutions, Baccalaureate Colleges, and Associates Colleges (Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education [CCIHE], 2001).
University A is a Doctoral/Research University-Intensive institution. It is a non-residential, selective institution with a student population of 11,173 with 60% of the students under the age of 25 years old. University B is a Doctoral/Research University-Intensive institution. It is a residential, selective institution with student population of 11,362 with 91% of the students under the age of 25 years old (Consumer Guide to Colorados Higher Education 2001 [CGCHE2001], 2001).
College C is a Baccalaureate College-General. The campus is non-residential and it is an open enrollment institution. It services a unique urban population and has 17,152 students with 57% of the students younger than 25 years of age. College D is an Associates College and serves an inner city
population. Its enrollment is 6,511 with 49% of the students younger than 25 years of age. College E is an Associates College and serves a suburban population. It has an enrollment of 4,772 with 42% of the students younger than 25 years of age (CGCHEI2001, 2001). Detailed information and retention rates for each institution can be found in Appendix D.
These public institutions of higher education are facing many external pressures from the state legislature as well as private for-profit education organizations. There are numerous competitors on the front-range vying for students. Many of these competitors tantalize potential students with themes of customer service, individualized programs and quality education. Retaining students in the face of competition is important to the survival of these public institutions.
At least two individuals were contacted for interviews at each institution. At least one of the two was the Vice-President for Student Affairs or the Vice President of Enrollment Management. The Vice-President position was chosen because of the direct involvement in the development and implementation of retention strategies for students. The other individuals were chosen based on their responsibility and campus-wide understanding of retention at their respective institution. Additional interviewees, as suggested by any of the targeted participants, were also involved. Documents to be reviewed were also recommended by the targeted participants.
A case study design as described by Yin, Bateman and Moore (1983) and Yin, (1994) was used in this study. The topic, institutions, and data collection protocol were all selected by the researcher. A synopsis of information gathered for each institution was created and then cross-case conclusions were drawn from the comparison of information.
To address concerns of construct and internal validity, the researcher used multiple sources of evidence including interviews, a questionnaire and a document review. The researcher attempted to address the issue of external validity by evaluating at least three institutions each having a different Carnegie Classifications in this case study. Reliability was addressed through a case study protocol in which the procedures were made operational and through interrater reliability. The researcher facilitated all interviews, questionnaire and document reviews (Tellis, 1996; Yin, 1994).
Initially, the Vice President of Student Affairs or person in a similar position at the institution was contacted. I also requested names and phone numbers for the other participants at each institution. A cover letter and consent
form was delivered to each of the participants at the time of the interview (Appendix E). Signed consent forms were collected before each interview.
Thank you letters were sent to each participant upon completion of the interview.
The first phase of data collection for this research was an interview with each of the participants. The interviews were taped and transcribed for greater accuracy. The interview questions focused on defining relationship marketing for higher education, retention challenges for higher education, retention strategies currently being used, and reasons for using those strategies. The interview questions were adapted from Peppers, Rogers, and Dorf (1999). The interview guide can be found is Appendix F. The interviews ranged from 30 to 60 minutes each.
The second phase of data collection was a questionnaire to acquire information on specific strategies that their respective institutions are using to retain students. One individual at each institution was asked to complete this questionnaire. This information assisted the researcher in defining relationship marketing in higher education. These questions were also adapted from Peppers, Rogers, and Dorf (1999). The questionnaire can be found in Appendix G.
The third phase of data collection was a document review of the strategic plan or mission statement or like-document for each institution. The document review evaluated the influence of external pressures and consumerism on the direction of the institution. The document review assessed what if any emphasis
was placed on relationship marketing strategies as a retention tool. This method was adapted from Conway, Mackay and Yorke (1994). The document review form can be found in Appendix H.
The researcher created a synopsis of the information gathered from the individual participants and the document review. This synopsis was used to define the types of retention tools used by student services that fall within the realm of relationship marketing. The researcher conducted a pilot study in the
summer of 2001 to evaluate the quality and clarity of the interview questions, the questionnaire and the document review.
The data analysis procedures occurred in two phases. The first phase was an analysis of the information gathered from each of the institutions. This information was used to create a synopsis of each institution and their data. The second phase of the data analysis compared the findings of each school to create a cross-case synopsis.
The data were organized according to the type of instrument that was being used. The interview data were coded and placed in a category tree for analysis. The questionnaire data were coded and evaluated against the other sources of data. The document review were also coded and evaluated to establish levels of commitment to relationship marketing. This information was
evaluated within the context of the institutional as an individual case to assess what if any affect it may have on retention strategies.
The data were coded using the concepts and their related definitions found within the conceptual framework. The coding consisted of the use of key words and phrases such as the phrase customer service or individualized attention. There were approximately forty-five unique key words or phrases coded in the research. There were a total of 360 items coded in ten interviews, five questionnaires and six documents.
Relationship marketing was also more narrowly defined in the coding tree to include the related techniques for each of the concepts. For example, within the relationship marketing concept of concern for the welfare of the student, there are several techniques that exemplify this concept. These techniques were then coded under the heading of concern for the welfare of the student and then subcategorized into the appropriate technique. This was done so to assist the researcher in the appropriate placement of the techniques with the coding tree. The coding tree with descriptions can be found in Appendix C.
At the completion of the individual institution data analysis, this information was compared and contrasted against each institution. This assessed the degree of relationship marketing across the institutions and had the individual institutions compared to other institutions in their use of relationship marketing.
During the initial data analysis and coding, one complete set of data (which included one interview, one questionnaire, and one document review), were analyzed by an interrater to estimate the interrater reliability of the coding scheme. The other rater was an adjunct professor who taught research design to undergraduate students at two private institutions in Colorado Springs. Using the definitions and techniques of relationship marketing as a guide, the second rater coded twenty-three phrases or key words. The research and the other rater were in agreement 74% of the time, which reflects a moderate level of interrater reliability. This moderate level of reliability is generally due to the fact that the second rater was more hesitant to code some phrases than then research (who was naturally more familiar with the concepts and techniques of relationship marketing.) For example, the participant interview that was used in the analyses, stated that class availability was important to retention, the other rater was unsure of the appropriate placement of the item within the coding tree.
There are limitations and concerns in the use of an exploratory case study. Perhaps the greatest concern has been over the lack of rigor of case study research (Yin, 1994, p. 9). The researcher attempted to minimize the concerns of rigor by using multiple instruments using the same category matrix. A second common concern about case studies is that they provide little basis for
scientific generalization (Yin, 1994, p. 10). This issue was partially addressed by including at least three institutions with three different Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education.
The number of participants was also a limitation to this exploratory case study. There were a total of ten participants who were interviewed and five participants who completed the questionnaire. In addition, the institutions were limited to Denver due to time constraints. It is not feasible to include all public and private institutions in Colorado or the United States.
The researcher has worked in higher education for the last twelve years in various administrative positions including academic advising and student services. These positions included responsibility for implementing retention strategies. Undoubtedly, the researcher has some preconceptions about retention and higher education that may be reflected in this research. The researchers bias is towards the use of relationship marketing techniques at institutions of higher education and has used these techniques at her own institution. The researcher attempted to control this bias by a strict adherence to the interview questions.
The interviews were recorded and transcribed for greater accuracy. And finally, the researcher subjected her coding decisions to an audit by another rater. As noted elsewhere, interrater reliability was sufficiently high to conclude that researcher bias did not influence the coding of the data.
A pilot study was conducted by the researcher to evaluate interview questions and the questionnaire. The pilot study participants were not employed by any of the researched institutions nor were they from a Colorado public institution. The researcher discovered valuable information relating to the length of time needed for interview questions (Appendix F) as well as appropriate interviewing techniques. Information gathered from the pilot study suggested to the researcher to add a comment section to the questionnaire (Appendix G) to allow respondents to augment the questionnaire with remarks or observations concerning the questions.
This exploratory case study of public institutions of higher education in Colorado used a variety of data collection methods in order to define relationship marketing in higher education. Using interviews, a questionnaire and a document review, this researcher investigated the issues of retention, retention tools, and strategies used by public institutions of higher education in Colorado.
This chapter is organized into seven sections. The first five sections reflect the individual institutions as case studies. Each of the five institutional sections includes responses to the interviews, the questionnaire, and the document review as reflected through the conceptual framework and definitions. These documents are available for review in the appendices. The sixth section discusses the institutional similarities and differences. The seventh section examines similarities and differences in retention strategies and issues.
The researcher interviewed two participants at University A, which is a Doctoral/Research University-Intensive institution (Appendix D). The participants will be known throughout this research as Participant A1 and Participant A2. Both participants are directly involved in the development and implementation of retention strategies for this institution.
University A does have a formal retention strategy. Those interviewed at University A reported that retention because of multiple causes seems to be a difficult issue to address. As Participant A1 stated,
There are so many factors that enter into retention that it is difficult to tackle. It is a difficult problem. You know like Tinto said in one of his articles, probably 15 years ago, one of the reasons why it is so hard to retain students is because there are 10 times more reasons for a student to drop out of school then to stay in.
According to Participant A1 the number one reason why students leave is financial, followed by ... other personal kinds of situations. Students are juggling many, many responsibilities at one time and usually to solve a particular problem, it is a lot easier to walk away from classes that they have and handle the situation. Student fit is another issue according to Participant Al,
For some students, were just not a good fit. I think that is the reason why we lose most of our freshmen one year to the next. They just realize that an urban campus like this is not where they want to be, theyd rather be somewhere with students more their own age, be away from home, it's those kinds of issues.
Graduation rates are generally based on the student completing their degree in four years, however as Participant Al suggested,
Four year graduation rate here doesnt make sense at all given our student enrollment, five to six years is generally the length of time. Six years is probably more accurate. So we try to do what we
can to try to assess the students goals when they first come in, particularly freshmen. We look at our first year to second year retention rates for incoming freshmen, which is critical.
Participant A1 continued with, Our goal basically, right now has been to get the first year to second year retention rate of incoming freshmen up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-75%. We have made some headway in the last couple of years. In an attempt to retain students into the second year Participant A1 stated that University A is encouraging students to choose a major early through the intervention of the career center.
Directly affecting retention is greater competition by other educational institutions according to Participant Al.
It is a much more competitive ball game now, we are not the only game in town. There are lots of privates out there, they are very, very strong competitors, who in most cases are probably small institutions, so theyre able to tailor their programs a little bit more toward students with special needs, particularly.
Also affecting retention and retention strategies is the implication that incoming freshmen and other students are taking their time completing their education. Participant Al pointed out that students,
..are more willing, for example, to stretch out the time it takes them to get their degree. So they can work and probably 80% of the students on this campus have employment that is at least 20 hours a week. Even the incoming freshmen, right out of high school still living at home, they still have part-time jobs that they are maintaining. At a time when legislature is really concerned with the period of time it is taking students to graduate, we are having students coming out of high school saying I dont really care if I get my degree in 4 years. I want to continue my education but I dont want to give up all the cars, stereos and I want to live in a nice apartment. We have seen a change in values really, of students coming in.
In addition says Participant Al, students are more demanding of services and more pragmatic about their educational experience.
Creating awareness within the faculty and staff at the University is an important component in the retention strategy for University A. Participant Al suggested that,
Gradually, I think we are creating an awareness of how important everybodys role it is in keeping students here. Even people who never thought they figured into it, like the office of computing services, where students go to get their ID card or account number, to be able to utilize the campus computers. Being given a hard time there just gives us one more bad mark against the institution in that persons mind. There are some folks that that might be the last straw, might just say forget it. I had a problem with my class last semester, I had a
problem with my professor and now this person is giving me a hard time. Im out of here.
Faculty, according to Participant Al, play an important role in retention.
We are probably only half way there in creating awareness. For all practical purposes, faculty are more important in the whole retention process then even we are because theyre the ones who have the direct contact with the students on a daily basis.
Consistent with the Participant Als statements, response to Question #16 of the questionnaire, Are faculty and staff encouraged to become mentors?, suggested that faculty and staff are often encouraged to become mentors to students.
Participant Al holds the philosophy of .. .its cheaper and more beneficial to the campus to keep a student once they are enrolled, then to go out and get new ones. With that philosophy in mind, University A developed and implemented an Advising Center to assist incoming freshmen and undeclared students with academic advising. Participants Al and A2 both related the success of the Advising Center as a vital component to the retention of students through academic advising support. Participant A2 believed that the new Advising Center has been instrumental in retaining students.
We arent really sure yet on measurable success. University A [sic] did see measurable changes in
retention this past year. Having looked at what happened in past years and this past year, we are pretty sure that the only thing different is the advising center.
University A provides students with a variety of support services and programs that are designed to assist students through the educational experience and increase retention. Participant A1 also discussed two successful pre-collegiate programs as support systems that have acted as retention programs for University A.
They are actually outreach programs but we begin working with students three or four years prior to them coming to campus. We start working with them when they are freshmen in high school and then they come here and those students basically stay a lot longer than other students.
The Advising Center and the Student Services Center are central to retention for University A. As expressed by Participant A1 there is, A lot more emphasis on service for the student. Over the last few years especially, we have done a lot of work revisiting our policies, procedures, registration, payment, all these kinds of things to make them more student friendly.
The Student Services Center according to Participant Al, was developed,
In an attempt to provide a one stop shopping, if you will, for students, so they wouldn't have to go all over campus to take care of financial aid matters, records/registration matters, admissions and that sort of thing. So they can all pretty much handle anything that they might want or need to take care of, right there at the service center.
Participant A2, also expressed the importance of providing service to the student.
I wanted to set the standards of how students were to be treated in the advising setting. It created an environment where we could provide customer service and a holistic view of the student. We try very hard to look at each student as an individual, their goals, their out of school activities, such as work and try to make appropriate decisions about their courses and their careers.
The Advising Centers promotional materials, provides an additional insight into the Universitys concern for the students personal and educational welfare. Materials from the Advising Center focus on integrating education goals with the students life goals and treating the student as a whole individual with a life outside higher education. Although we do help with course scheduling and explain degree requirements, our ultimate goal is to help you to grow and develop, both academically and personally.
In addition to interviews, a written questionnaire was administered to one knowledgeable participant at each institution. The participant chosen to respond
to the written questionnaire was selected because of their leadership role and knowledge of university wide retention strategies at University A. The participant responded to each question of the questionnaire by selecting one of the following options: always, often, sometimes, and never. While it is not possible to generalize the responses to the questionnaire from these single participant responses, the questionnaire was used to ground the face-to-face interviews for this study.
Taken together, the responses to the questionnaire suggests a customer service approach to retention strategies by University A. For example, in response to Question #8 of the questionnaire, Is customer service important to retention at your institution?, the participant at University A noted that customer service is always important. While this customer service approach seems to be important and the University committed to this approach in its retention strategies, as reflected in the participants statements, the respondent indicated that students are only sometimes considered customers and that students are often satisfied was academic services. The inconsistency, between the responses to the questionnaire and the interviews, seems to reflect a lack of comprehensive and university wide commitment by University A.
The mission statement and values for University A reflect a concern for the students welfare and educational growth. This concern is exhibited in the desire of the University to improve learning, teaching and enhancing the quality
of curriculum in response to the learning needs of the students. University A .interprets its mission as advancing the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge in a total learning environment.
University A does have limitations to its retention strategies. Both participants cited creating awareness with faculty and staff as a major hurdle in the retention strategy. In addition, faculty and staff acceptance of support programs such as the Advising Center has also been an obstacle. Participant A1 pointed out that the lack of student participation in student activities is also a hindrance to retention, We do a lot of stuff but the participation rate is not high because students are juggling work and school.
The researcher interviewed two participants at University B, which is a Doctoral/Research University-Intensive institution (Appendix D). The participants will be known throughout this research as Participant B1 and Participant B2. Both participants are directly involved in the development and implementation of retention strategies for this institution.
University B does not have a comprehensive retention plan in place but as Participant B1 stated, ...we have set up an enrollment council. It serves as an umbrella for several teams. One of the teams focuses on retention. The composition of the enrollment council was very important according to
Participant B1, ... each team we very carefully selected people so that we had every academic unit represented. To get them involved in this process, to get the buy in, to get them thinking about the whole of retention.
The team was charged with developing ... an inventory of what is being done across campus. Participant B1 pointed out that many of the individual departments and colleges have been actively involved in retention efforts on their own. With this information, the team can determine what short and long term retention efforts that the University should focus its attention. In addition, by developing this inventory it brought into focus those schools and departments who need additional assistance with their retention efforts.
Many of the departments and schools who have organized retention efforts seek assistance. Participant B2 stated that, ...its our job to encourage them to pursue retention efforts or on the college level to put together some initiative for retention. We budget an amount of money every year. We call it retention money. Departments or colleges request money to support programs, field trips, or speakers, which they believe will enhance the educational experience for the students and ultimately lead to retaining those students.
University B has developed and implemented learning communities through the School of Arts and Sciences. According to Participant 2B, We have grouped courses into meaningful packages and created academic learning communities. We dont have learning communities to fit everyone but we have
about six packages of learning communities. The learning communities are developed around career paths such as education, pre-medicine and pre-law.
One of the cohorts is called Class Act, which is for students who want to be teachers. There are ten cohorts of twenty-five students. As described by Participant B2, the cohort will take four courses together in their first semester as students under the leadership of an English professor.
The English professor provides not only additional academic support for the students in the cohort but teaches a one credit hour course in career and academic planning, according to Participant B2. This .. .lead faculty will contact the other faculty members during the semester and ask how students are doing. Parents also know this lead faculty and are welcome to call them as well, if they have concerns. Participant B2 expressed, that the faculty involved in this program are very dedicated to the success of the students and as a by-product of their dedication have enhanced the overall quality of the educational experience.
In addition, University Bs promotional materials suggests that it .. .provides services that support equal learning opportunities for all students. Teaching is the highest priority. University B [sic] professors, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, subscribe to a teacher/scholar model in which excellence in instruction is complemented by activities and service.
The participant who responded to the questionnaire for University B noted that students sometimes feel alienated. The development of learning
communities helps to alleviate those feelings alienation by providing students with early peer connections. Participant B2 stated,
They have a study group and they are friends already. The faculty can tell the difference between students in cohorts and students not in cohorts. Cohort students are already friendly with classmates, open and participate in class. Students not in cohorts tend to be more withdrawn and less active in the classroom.
Effectiveness of the learning communities in relation to retention can already be seen, according to Participant 2B, we are .. able to show that the retention was several points better for these students. They are also getting better GPAs, taking more hours and returning the following fall at better rates than other students.
Another retention strategy facilitated by Participant B2 is making sure classes are available for students regardless of when they register for classes. University B2 found that underclassmen and late registering students were closed out of classes they needed for their degree program. Participant B2 began tracking enrollments for general education classes on a spread-sheet.
We do this labor-intensive operation of regulating the number of students in a class so that we can make sure that all times of the day and in all sections, there are seats available clear up to the end of registration.
According to Participant B2, students should have access to every single course that they might need. Participant B2 provides students with,
. .a list of what those seats are by category and hand it to them so they dont have to go through the system and look up what courses are open. They have the list, all categorized and all organized, so registration on the very last day is the smoothest of all
In addition to the one credit hour career and academic planning course for students in the learning communities, University B provides approximately fifteen sections of that course to any student, as stated by Participant Bl. Participant B1 stated that this one hour class is done in cooperation with the Career Resource Center.
Theyll not only help you pick a major but think about internships and jobs that will in college that are going to help you get a job in your career. So the retention effort is trying to get freshmen to start thinking about these things.
According to Participant B2, the College of Arts and Sciences developed an advising center to assist students as well as faculty with advising issues.
So we put together an advising center and put a couple of people in it. They can help departments, put brochures together and assist faculty with
advising questions. Faculty can get answers to questions about financial aid, one catalog year versus another year and how to change a major.
Advising students well, as suggested by Participant B2, includes more than just classes students need to take but understanding specific details and policies that affect the students successful completion to graduation. Participant B2, also pointed out that students are taking longer to graduate, which makes advising even more important.
One of the initiatives implemented by University B begins with freshmen orientation and continues through the students first year. As Participant B1 describes, They use the orientation leaders from the summer to advise the students in the fall. The students already have a connection with the advisors. The advisors are chosen in the fall and are required to take a class the following spring on advising and working with students. The importance of this initiative is seen in this story imparted by the Participant Bl, One of our guys called up one student on the third day of class and the student said I havent been out of my room to a meal once because I dont know anyone here. So the young man who had called, went over and took the student to lunch. Then the student was able to make the connection out.
Participant Bl also described an Early Alert program that was designed to help faculty, staff and students who work with first year students to become
aware of warning signs of problems and issues. The program would also include parents who might have concerns about their students welfare.
The parents and faculty know that they can contact one person at the college transition center and say, Im really concerned about Susie. So someone here would call Susie and say we are just randomly calling our new students and ask her how she is doing.
Participant B1 believes that this initiative will help to identify students who are having problems and salvage the situation before the student drops out.
Participant B1 stated that students are more demanding of services and information. Participant B1 considers training and customer service to be a critical response to those demands as well as important to the Universitys retention efforts.
We are going to have a front line connections meeting in August before school starts. We are going to invite all staff from across campus who encounter students, as well as all the people from the student services areas, and if faculty want to come we arent going to limit it. Then at that workshop we will have presentations by people from the main areas that deal with issues at the beginning of the semester, such as the registrars office, financial aid, accounts receivable, and advising.
According to Participant Bl, these are some of the areas that students of all levels will have questions. Participant Bl stressed that faculty and staff need understand the important role they play in disseminating accurate information and ultimately their role in retention.
Customer service and the attitude of the staff is important to retention at University B. Participant Bl suggested the staff need to let students know .that we are concerned about them and that we are here to help them. It is also the ... charge of both retention and student services to come up with some customer service training. Participant Bl stated,
I tell my staff to think of their worst experience in a restaurant or store. Put yourself in that position.
How would you like to be treated? The best service youve ever had, give that to a student.
In addition to the interviews at University B, one knowledgeable participant responded to the written questionnaire. The participant was selected was chosen because of their leadership role and knowledge of University wide retention strategies. The participant responded to each question of the questionnaire by selecting one of the following options: always, often, sometimes, and never. Even though it is difficult to generalize the responses to the questionnaire, the responses suggest a commitment to customer service. The
responses to the questionnaire are consistent with the statements made by the participants in the interviews.
In general, the responses to the questionnaire reflect a commitment to customer service as a retention strategy. Response to Question #8 of the questionnaire, Is customer service important to retention at your institution?, the participant responded that customer service is always important. However, the participant indicated that students are sometimes considered customers and students are often satisfied with academic services. The inconsistency, between the responses to the questionnaire and the interviews seems to reflect a lack of comprehensive and university wide commitment by University B.
Commitment to the welfare of the student as well as the community is reflected in the mission and values of University B. The mission ... is to develop well-educated citizens and to improve the quality of life in the state and region through teaching, learning, the advancement of knowledge and community service. University B also stresses the importance of preparing students to .. .think and act responsibly in a dynamic, diverse and global society. The University, according its stated values, promotes excellence in both teaching and learning.
The researcher interviewed three participants at College C, which is a
Baccalaureate College-General (Appendix D). The participants will be known throughout this research as Participant Cl, Participant C2, and Participant C3. Participant Cl and Participant C2 are directly involved in the development and implementation of retention strategies for this institution. Participant C3 is indirectly involved in retention and is not involved in development and implementation of retention strategies.
College C subscribes to the student affairs approach to retention. According to both Participant Cl and Participant C2 the student affairs model is a philosophical approach that puts into practice connectedness to the institution and listening to students. Participant Cl said that it .. .is really going to bat for the individual student through student development. Participant C2 also stated that, ... we know that if we can help them be successful in that first year by becoming connected to the institution, they have a much greater chance of persisting through to graduation. Participant C3 stated that College C provides not only student services, but student activities which increase the connection between student and institution. And more involvement activities like campus recreation, where students get involved in sports or clubs are ways to keep them connected in to the school. They have a sense of identity and attachment to the place. In addition, the participant who responded to the written question noted that a sense of community or belonging is always important to retention. The
response to the questionnaire and comments made by the participants seem to reflect the importance of student connectedness to College C.
A part of this student affairs model is the concept of student centeredness, which is critical to the retention strategies of College C. According to Participant Cl it was important to bring awareness of the meaning of student centeredness and what that meant to each institutional entity.
What that means in the business office, in student accounts, and what it means to them in the job of doing daily business. It is using the language and making sure that they understood what student centeredness meant when they looked at policies and practices.
Participant Cl communicated student centeredness to all levels of the institution including staff, faculty and the President. Participant Cl has seen success through the use of the language in speeches made by the President, strategic plans, and in discussions about student learning. In addition, all three participants expressed that everyone is responsible for student retention. Communicating that message across campus has been vital to the retention process.
The challenge of College C is the continuing student. Participant Cl stated that College C has had record enrollments in the past few years but that getting students to continue has been a major hurdle, . we are not concentrating
on the population that we needed to and that is the continuing student. In response, College C is focusing on providing additional academic and financial support to students to encourage them to continue. Participant Cl also stated that this included assisting students with career decisions and choosing a major.
These items help to focus and prepare the student to persist and ultimately, graduate. Participant C2 also stated that many of the students are not committed to the institution because .. .more students these days arent making that choice for themselves but having it made for them by their parents.
Faculty and staff collaboration and cooperation is essential to the success of retention programs for College C. Participant Cl stated that, .just about every program has a direct link to faculty involvement at some level. Staff members have been included in several retention projects according to Participant C2. In one project Cohort 900, We got almost forty people [staff] to volunteer to take on thirty six students each and contact them. These statements by the participants is consistent with response to Question #16 Are faculty and staff encouraged to become mentors? of the questionnaire. College C stated that faculty and staff are always encouraged to become mentors, which supports comments made by the participant.
Cohort 900 was a support program developed especially for students in a specific range of Colorado Commission of Higher Education Index Scores. Participant C2 stated that these students fell between at risk students and high
index score students. It was discovered through research done by Participant C2, that the lack of support services for these students placed them at higher risk of dropping out. Cohort 900 included personalized letters and phone calls from the volunteer staff members at College C. These staff members were equipped with information about college policies, practices, and the availability of support services. The retention rates of students in Cohort 900, according to Participant C2 .. .varied based on the commitment level of the volunteer. However, Participant C2 felt that the effort was worth it because the College can use the information, .. .to identify patterns of persistence and can be more deliberate in how we provide services to the students.
Participant C2 and Participant C3 spoke of the Colleges commitment to the continued development of student-to-student connections. Many of the scholarship programs offered through College C, includes a requirement that students become peer mentors according to Participant C2. I know that students benefit just by having conversations and a connection with a student who has already been through the ropes.
College C has created a more comprehensive orientation process to provide support for incoming students. As expressed by Participant C2,
Theyve been doing mock registration in orientation so that by the time these students get to academic advising they know how the systems works. This creates a smoother process and a more satisfied student. In addition, according to
Participant Cl the institution is, .looking at how the decisions we make are effecting how we service students. What we are talking about is looking at the student as a person. The participant who responded to the questionnaire noted that students needs are always taken into consideration when policies are implemented. The response to the question is consistent with statements made by the participants at College C.
In addition to support services, customer service and staff member training is important to retention. College C, according to Participant C2, .. .has been working on cross training in certain offices so that there is a more generalist skill level of the staff, so that students arent shuttled back and forth between offices.
In addition to the interviews at University C, one knowledgeable participant responded to the questionnaire. The participant was selected was chosen because of their leadership role and knowledge of University wide retention strategies. The participant responded to each question of the questionnaire by selecting one of the following options: always, often, sometimes, and never. Even though it is difficult to generalize the responses to the questionnaire, the responses do suggest a commitment to customer service.
The participant who responded to the questionnaire noted that students are always considered customers and that customer service is always an important component to College Cs retention strategies. However, the
participant noted that students are only often satisfied with academic services. In general, there seems to be a consensus and commitment to customer service, however, the responses do not seem to reflect total support for customer service as a retention strategy.
College C emphasizes accessibility and a commitment to the academic growth of its students.
The colleges mission is to provide high-quality, accessible, enriching education that prepares students for successful careers, postgraduate education and lifelong learning in a multicultural, global, and technological society.
College C also stated in other promotional materials that the, .. role and mission are rooted in a commitment to excellence in teaching and learning. Students .praise faculty for their attention to teaching and willingness to help students succeed.
The researcher interviewed two participants at College D, which is a Associates College (Appendix D). The participants will be known throughout this research as Participants D1 and D2. Both participants were directly involved in the development and implementation of retention strategies for this institution.
Participant D1 stated that College D did have a retention initiative but that it was not in publication yet. The first part of the initiative was to,
. .collect the retention efforts that everyone is doing. We do an annual planning process and in that we will write specific objects to meet certain goals. That group will come together and come up with strategic goals for the year. And we will create action priorities and each area will write specific goals towards those action priorities.
Often there is something focused on retention.
And so you are forced to write specific goals toward retention.
Participant D1 and D2 both agreed that everyone at the institution is responsible for retention not just student affairs.
There are many retention challenges facing at College D. As Participant D1 expresses, Certainly one of our challenges is being on a commuter campus. When you are on a residential campus you can sort of create a community and culture, institutional culture that people buy into the institution and theyre involved. Participant D2 discussed additional issues facing the institution.
In general, the dynamics of the family has changed, as we have more adult students returning to school. There are other people involved in the educational process or being a barrier to that process. More students are single parents or have other types of family issues, which keep them from staying in school.
Both Participant D1 and Participant D2 expressed concerns over changes in the availability of financial resources for students. As Participant D2 stated, Many of the students who used to come to school used to receive more funding from their companies. We are seeing a major decrease in company-sponsored students, as companies continue to layoff and downsize this will continue to be a problem. In addition, both Participant D1 and Participant D2 spoke of their concern about the decrease in other types of federal funding that used to be available for students.
Developing relationships with students is important at all levels of the institution. Participant D1 stated,
Most people who work here know what it takes for students to be successful, especially our fulltime faculty. We do have a lot of part-time faculty, some of them havent been here as long but I think even a part-timer who has been here for a while, they begin to see patterns of behavior and that sort of thing. Most of the faculty that Ive worked with, are really invested in helping students be successful. They spend a lot of time with students.
Faculty will contact students if the faculty member sees that the student has been missing too many classes or is falling behind in the course. Participant D2 reiterated that sentiment at the stafflevel,
One of the important aspects of retention is building relationships with the students. It is not just customer service, it is beyond that. Customer service is a priority but we want to know that we are here for them, to make sure that things dont fall through the cracks.
The mission statement and statement of values for College D also expressed a commitment to the student. The statement of values for advising excellence for College D articulates the personal and professional commitment of the faculty, staff and administrators to assisting the student. An importance is placed on understanding .. the value of active listening, focusing on students strengths and potential in the advising process. Also, there is a commitment to provide students with accurate and usable information about college policies and practices.
There are numerous support programs at College D. Participant D1 briefly described them,
We have a grant from the US Department of Education, that is focused on retention of students of color, primarily Hispanic students. The program is based on learning communities, peer mentors and pretty ambitious goals for retaining students of color in particular.
Another support program is Project Success.
We have a Project Success Day. Faculty announce it in class and we all prepare for that day. On that day we dont have class but students come in and meet with their instructors and talk about their progress and where they are [academically] in the class. It lets the students know what they need to do and whether they are on track or not. It gives them time to get tutoring or do what they need to do to be successful.
College D stresses strong support services for their students. Participant D1 stated,
Definitely a lot of flexibility, I think we certainly take into account all the situations a student has, where some colleges might put you out. We would be putting everyone out or at least a large portion of our students if we werent flexible. If we had our policies so strict, we cant do what a Harvard does, we wouldnt have our students. I think we try to create a balance, we know what our population is like and they need additional support and flexibility.
College D, according to Participant D1 also offers late start classes and financial aid deferment as tools to assist students in the quest for a college education. The response to the questionnaire in the area of support services was consistent with statements made by both the participants. Response to Question #1 of the questionnaire, Are student satisfied with academic services?, reflects that students are almost always satisfied with academic services. The response to
the question and statements made by the participants seems to suggest that College D is not only committed to academic services but that students are satisfied with the services they receive.
Participant D2 also felt that customer service is an important issue in the retention process.
Treating students as adults and understanding that they have other responsibilities that they have to take care of. It is also important to do what you say you are going to do. Then responding to the student in a timely manner and getting back to them with the answer. When was the situation resolved, did the person call them back, did they forget about them, did it take a week or 24 hours. Timeliness and responsiveness is crucial.
In addition to the interviews at University D, one knowledgeable participant responded to the written questionnaire. The participant was selected was chosen because of their leadership role and knowledge of University wide retention strategies. The participant responded to each question of the questionnaire by selecting one of the following options: always, often, sometimes, and never. It is difficult to generalize the responses to the questionnaire, but the responses suggest a commitment to customer service. In general, the responses to the questionnaire are consistent with the statements made by the participants in the interviews.
The participant who responded to the questionnaire noted that students are almost always considered customers and that customer service is almost always an important component to College Ds retention strategies. However, as noted previously students are almost always satisfied with academic services. In general, there seems to be a consensus and commitment to customer service as the central theme to College Ds retention strategies.
Students are counseled at many points in their academic careers, as Participant D1 pointed out. When a student is falling below the required grade point average, whether it is an academic or financial aid concern, the student is called in to discuss the situation. Students are given support and opportunities to be successful throughout their educational experience.
In addition, the statement of values for teaching and learning expressed a commitment to providing students with critical thinking and problem solving skills. In addition, there is a .. .commitment to student outcomes that leads to mastery of subject matter. College D also values an .. .individualized, student-centered approach to encourage growth in student self-esteem.
Both Participant D1 and Participant D2 believed that the success of their College D is understanding their unique student population and designing the institution around the needs of those students. Participant D1 expressed that this philosophy permeates all aspects of the institution and is at the forefront of all decisions that are made at College D.
The researcher interviewed only one participant at College E, which is a Associates College (Appendix D). The participant will be known throughout this research as Participant El. The participant is directly involved in the development and implementation of retention strategies for this institution.
College E does not have at this time a formal retention plan in place but according to Participant El, the institution .does have an enrollment management committee and we have some retention initiatives that we will be developing in their proper sequence in time. The President of College E is on the committee and is an active member. However, Participant El did suggest that, Retention is a thousand pieces, it is everything. It is a measure of the quality of everything that you do in an institution.
Participant El believes, that faculty are an important component to any retention strategy. In student services, we spend a couple of hours with a student, maybe even three, a faculty member spends 45 hours with them for a one three credit class. So, who has the bigger impact on retention? As a part of the retention strategy for College E, Participant El stated that they will be developing training especially for faculty on bonding type activities and additional activities that faculty can do to assist in retention.
The faculty are responding extremely well. They are really excited, we talked about the faculty training, retention, the first day and requiring students to go to a club event as a part of their assignments. Participant El also feels that incorporating events/programs into class assignments would force students to participate and feel more connected to the institution. Participant El would like to encourage instructors to use cooperative learning in their assignments. Participant El feels that using study groups and group projects would also encourage connections with other students and decrease feelings of isolation.
Developing a relationship and assisting students through the educational process is important to College E. Fve thought about it a lot and I think we will move away from the term student to the term client. It gives us a philosophical difference, a philosophical edge. It defines the relationship with that individual. Participant El reiterated that,
Retention is a measure of all the quality that you line up in your institution. Maybe that piece by itself doesnt do much but you add that to good service and the one stop shopping.. .it starts to add up to something.
In addition to faculty involvement in retention, Participant El stated that College E would like to add a one-credit student success class to the curriculum. In that class you need something that addresses academic success, personal
survival and career exploration. A success class would allow College E to overcome limited resources,
But our college is like any other college we have five counselors and 5000 students. It is impossible to do anything one on one. That class allows you to do the kind of group advising you need to do but talking about academic survival, personal survival, career goals and creating an academic plan, creating a map for the student.
Another program that College E uses for retention purposes is an early alert program. Students who are experiencing problems are contacted after midterms. However, Participant El feels that students should be contacted earlier, within the first two weeks. According to Participant El, the more aggressive stance gives the institution a greater chance of helping the student solve the problem and stay in school.
College E is working on providing better service to student through a one-stop student center.
I think the one stop student center is important so we can give better customer service oriented so the students arent getting quite as much run-around. We have admissions, advising, financial aid, and assessment all in different buildings. We are hoping to remedy that by this spring.
Participant El also believes a good phone system, good phone operators with correct information, and a user friendly web site are all part of good customer service and that ultimately reflects on retention.
The participant for College E responded to the written questionnaire. The participant was selected was chosen because of their leadership role and knowledge of University wide retention strategies for both the interview and the questionnaire. The participant responded to each question of the questionnaire by selecting one of the following options: always, often, sometimes, and never.
It is difficult to generalize the responses to the questionnaire, but the responses suggest a commitment to customer service. In general, the responses to the questionnaire are consistent with the statements made by the participant.
The participant noted that students are always considered customers and that customer service is always an important component to College Es retention strategies. However, as noted previously students are often satisfied with academic services. In general, there seems to be a commitment to customer service but it is not always consistently applied across the College.
The mission statement and other materials for College E reflect an attitude of concern for the students success in their educational endeavors. We are here to help you find your way no matter what path you decide. You will find extraordinary resources here that will help you in your journey. All you need to do is ask. College E also states in its promotional materials that there is
an understanding that students have other obligations, which is why it provides courses on the evenings and weekend to make it more convenient for students.
College E reinforces its commitment to students through quality teaching and personalized approach in the classroom as stated in their promotional materials. Quality teaching means that your instructor knows you by name and will see that you get the individual help to make your college experience successful. College E also states that their .. .teaching methods are student centered, focusing on your learning and your needs. There seems to be a focus on individualized attention and customer service to the student throughout the materials presented by College E.
Cross Case Analysis
Institutional Similarities and Differences
The five institutions researched are all public institutions of higher education and are located in the State of Colorado. The five institutions are all located within a seventy- mile radius of Denver, Colorado. They are also all regionally accredited by North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. All of the institutions had various enrollment management departments, which included student services, advising and financial aid. However, only one institution had a position whose job responsibility was solely retention.
There are several differences between the five institutions. According to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, University A and University B are Doctoral/Research University-Intensive institutions, College C is a Baccalaureate College-General, and College D and College E are Associates Colleges (CCIHE, 2001.). University A, College C, and College D are all urban institutions. University B is a located in a rural area and College E is located in a suburb of Denver. University B is the only residential institution researched, the remaining institutions are commuter campuses. In relationship to the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education differences, each institution has its own unique mission and function.
University A and University B have similar sized student populations, however, University B has a much larger undergraduate student body. College C was not only the largest institution but maintained the largest undergraduate student population. College D and E have similar student populations and along with College C, serve only undergraduate students (CGCHE, 2001).
Retention Strategies Similarities and Differences
In general, all five institutions are either working on retention strategies or have plans in place. University B and College E were the only two institutions that did not have a formalized plan. However, there was agreement across the
five institutions that everyone at the university or college was responsible for retention not just enrollment management.
Both of the Doctoral/Research University-Intensive institutions, University A and University B stated that students are more demanding of student services and expect customer service. Both institutions also reported that students are taking longer to graduate than previous graduating classes. University A attributes these issues to a change in student values.
Creating personal bonds between faculty, staff, and students was a consistent theme throughout the research. All five institutions stated that they encouraged faculty interactions with students either through direct or indirect retention initiatives. University A, University B, College C, and College D encouraged staff to develop relationships with students. University B, College C, College D, and College E also encouraged student-to-student relationships through peer mentoring and other programs.
University A and University B communicated the importance of an advising center to students as well as to faculty. University A, University B, and College E also expressed the value of creating a one-stop student center that included registration, student accounts and other administrative offices for the students convenience. All the institutions agreed that they are providing more support services for students.
All five institutions are providing more customer service to the students. In addition, University B and College E are providing customer service training to faculty and staff. University A, College C, and College D expressed that viewing the student as an individual and as a whole person as an important component in advising and support services. These institutions counsel students based on all aspects of the students life not just their academic endeavors. University B and College D also provide counseling, both academically and personally as a way to assist students in their educational goals.
There are many additional support programs that the five institutions have created to assist in their retention efforts. These programs range from pre-collegiate programs at University A to freshmen orientation/peer advising at University B. University B and College E both use early alert programs to identify students in trouble. There are also several programs that target specific student populations such as Cohort 900 at College C and Learning Communities at University B.
All five institutions revealed a commitment to the academic and personal growth of the student. The mission statements reflect a dedication to providing quality education through excellence in teaching and learning. University B, College C, and College E stated that availability and convenience of courses was important to their retention strategies. In addition, University A, University B,
College C, and College E feel that integrating the career center and career classes into the curriculum as a valuable component to their retention strategies.
The researcher evaluated the mission statements and other like documents against the document review form. Each institution was categorized based on that evaluation. Each institution fell within Category B. The institutions, in general, used customer terminology and mentioned the institutions concern for the students welfare. There was some emphasis on developing relationships, a commitment to customer service, and problem resolution in the various documents from the institutions.
However, there seems to be little indication that there is communication or coordination with the various academic departments by student affairs. The separation of student affairs from the academic side of higher education is evident in the lack of collaboration in retention efforts. Two of the institutions researched stated that they were in the process of gathering data campus-wide on retention strategies and University B does work some with academic departments by providing funds and advise for retaining students. However, there does not seem to be a strong working relationship between student affairs and academic departments in the development of retention strategies. The retention strategies discussed by the institutions reflected a more general campus wide approach.
There also seems to be external and internal factors that affect retention that higher education cannot control. The participants suggested that such
external factors as the economy, finances, students personal issues, and student fit affected their ability to retain students. In addition, the participants have little or no control over internal factors such as program changes, curriculum and faculty that can also affect retention. The lack of control of these factors makes it difficult for institutions to develop effective retention strategies. All of the institutions researched continue to struggle to retain their students and have yet to find the right mix of retention techniques and strategies needed to be successful in the area of retention.
Finally, in all of the five institutions, the questionnaire and the document review supports and agrees with the statements made by the participants. There seems to be a consistent representation of retention strategies and techniques through all three sources of evidence.
In conclusion, the three sources of evidence reflect that all five institutions researched either had formal retention plans in place or were beginning to create retention plans. The three sources of evidence suggests that customer service, student support services, advising and career advising centers are important components to their retention strategies. In addition, the three sources of evidence reflect a desire for faculty and staff to become mentors and develop relationships as a way to increase connections to the institution for students.
This case study was conducted to investigate the use of relationship marketing techniques by public institutions of higher education in Colorado. The definition of relationship marketing (Gronroos, 1990) and the principles of retention (Tinto, 1990) laid the foundation for this research. Both relationship marketing and retention principles focus on five basic concepts as they relate to higher education: creating personal bonds, concern for the welfare of the student, commitment to the personal and academic growth of the student, student fit, and retaining/terminating the relationship with the student.
The results of the interviews, the questionnaire and the document review reflect the use of three of the five concepts in their retention strategies. Public institutions of higher education in Colorado incorporate the following three concepts in their retention plans: creating personal bonds, concern for the welfare of the student, and commitment to the personal and academic growth of the student. However, the institutions researched do not utilize student fit or retaining/terminating the relationship with the student as retention strategies.
Creating personal bonds was encouraged at all of the institutions researched. The development of relationships by faculty, staff or students is an important aspect of their retention strategies. These personal bonds create a
sense of connectedness to the institutions and decrease the students sense of alienation.
Each of the institutions researched are concerned for the students welfare. The institutions provide students with support services such as, advising, career centers and convenient one-stop student service centers. In addition, all five institutions convey the importance of customer service, responding to student needs, and viewing students as individuals or customers to their institutions.
All of the institutions are committed to personal and academic growth. This is reflected not only in their mission statements as well as in their promotional materials. An emphasis is placed on excellence in teaching and learning as well as giving students the tools to live and work in this world.
However, none of the institutions associated student fit with retention. Student fit reflects the concept that incongruence or incompatibility with the institution can lead to isolation and attrition. Participant A1 remarked that one of the reasons that students leave University A was due to student fit.
In addition, none of the institutions discussed retaining/terminating the relationship with a student as part of their retention strategies. Both relationship marketing and retention principles suggest that if the relationship between student and institution is not beneficial to both parties then the relationship should be terminated. All institutions stated in the questionnaire that they do
counsel students to leave the institution but it is not reflected as a part of their retention strategies.
Public institutions of higher education in Colorado are incorporating some relationship marketing techniques in their retention efforts. However, none of the institutions have uncovered the perfect retention strategy and continue to struggle to retain students. It is important to continue to explore and research relationship marketing techniques to assist these institutions in their retention goals.
Chapter five describes the findings, conclusions, recommendations for practice, and recommendations for further study. This chapter is organized into six sections. The first section is an overview of relationship marketing and retention in higher education. The second section is a summary of the findings and answers the research questions. The third section outlines the conclusions drawn from the research. The fourth section is a discussion of the findings. The fifth section describes recommendations for practice and the sixth section discusses the recommendations for future study.
Businesses as well as higher education are facing the challenges of the 21st century consumer. This consumer has access to a variety of quality products, services, technology, and providers to meet their wants and needs. Providers of goods and services such as education have found themselves in a new customer oriented environment. This change has and will continue to affect the way higher education recruits and retains students.
One approach to retaining customers is through the use of relationship marketing. Relationship marketing is a business tool, which emphasizes the development of relationships with the customer. Relationship marketing can be organized into five major concepts with techniques or activities that support each of the concepts. The five concepts are: creating personal bonds, concern for the welfare of the customer, commitment to the growth of the customer, customer fit, and retaining/terminating the relationship with the customer (Appendix A).
There are a number of activities or techniques that support each of these concepts.
Techniques for creating personal bonds are exemplified by developing relationships with customers through personalized communications and attention. Concern for the welfare of the customer techniques are reflected through customer service, providing accurate information and a commitment to quality.
In addition, techniques for commitment to the growth of the customer are expressed through quality products and services that advance the standing of the customer. Customer fit represents the connection between the wants and needs of the customer with what the organization can provide. Finally, retaining/terminating the relationship with the customer is reflected through the mutually beneficial relationship between the customer and the organization.
One of the goals of relationship marketing is to establish a long-term relationship with loyal customers. The same is true in higher education.
Institutions of higher education strive to retain students not just from one year to the next (persistence) but to degree completion. Retention strategies focus on establishing a long-term relationship with the student that leads ultimately to graduation. Since both relationship marketing and retention have a similar focus, it was logical to assume that retention strategies used by institutions of higher education may include relationship marketing concepts and techniques.
The purpose of this study was to explore the possibility that higher education may be incorporating relationship marketing techniques in their retention strategies. The next three next sections will review the findings of the study, the conclusions and the implications of the research. The final two sections will discuss recommendations for practice and future research.
Summary of Findings
The purpose of this research was to investigate the use of relationship marketing techniques by public institutions of higher education in Colorado.
Using responses from the interviews, the questionnaire, and the document review, this research provided answers to the following research questions. What relationship marketing techniques are being used by institutions of public higher education in Colorado? To what extent are relationship marketing techniques being used by public institutions of higher education in Colorado? Why are these institutions using relationship marketing techniques? And finally, what are the
similarities and differences in the use of relationship marketing by different Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education?
The conceptual framework (Appendix A) and the definition of relationship marketing (Gronroos, 1990) provided a guide for answering the first research question: What relationship marketing techniques are being used by institutions of public higher education in Colorado? Consciously or unconsciously the participants interviewed seem to be incorporating relationship marketing techniques into their retention strategies.
The research indicated the use of three of the five relationship marketing concepts. Relationship marketing focuses on the five basic concepts, as it relates to higher education they are: creating personal bonds with students, concern for the welfare of the student, commitment to the personal and academic growth of the student, student fit, and retaining/ terminating the relationship with the student. The three concepts mentioned most frequently in the formation of retention strategies according to the research are: development of personal bonds with students, concern for the welfare of students, and commitment to the personal and academic growth of the students. The five institutions researched did not seem to include student fit or retaining/terminating the relationship with the student in their retention strategies.
There seemed to be several techniques utilized from the relationship marketing concept of development of personal bonds. The five institutions
researched seemed to encourage faculty and staff to communicate, interact, and develop personal bonds with students. Institutions used this communication to make decisions about policy and practice with the students needs in mind. The institutions also used this information to customize and individualize services such as academic advising.
The use of customer services activities by the five institutions suggests that there is concern for the students welfare. Customer service training, followup phone calls to students and orientations are just some of the relationship marketing techniques that institutions have employed. Concern for the student seems to be reflected through the desire to provide accurate information, course availability, and convenient one-stop student centers. In addition, early alert programs, learning communities, and pre-collegiate programs suggest that institutions are concerned about student success.
The research also suggests that the five institutions are committed to the students personal and academic growth by providing a quality educational experience with an emphasis on teaching and learning. Institutions are attempting to augment the educational experience by integrating the academic, work, and home life of students through appropriate academic advising. These techniques also seem to be supported through the utilization of learning communities, career development, and student support services that are offered at the various institutions.
The second research question asked, To what extent are relationship marketing techniques being used by public institutions of higher education in Colorado? Reviewing each of the retention strategies of the institutions, whether organized in a plan or not, seems to include numerous techniques of relationship marketing. These techniques did not seem to be confined to structured programs but there was an attempt to include them in every day activities, such as providing customer service, disseminating accurate information, and individualized attention in academic advising.
In addition, several of the participants stated that their retention strategies encourage faculty and staff to develop relationships with students to strengthen the bond between the student and the institution to create a sense of connectedness. The participants also stated that non-academic departments such as computing services, accounts receivable, and academic advising were also encouraged to provide customer service and individualized attention. Several of the participants suggested that everyone at the institution is responsible for retention.
However, there is some indication that these relationship marketing concepts are not being widely used throughout these institutions. Responses by some of the participants reflect a tone that suggests there is still a need to create awareness about retention and may be struggling to gain acceptance throughout the institutions of certain relationship marketing techniques such as customer
service. Responses to the questionnaire also point out that students are not always satisfied with the services they receive.
This inconsistency suggests that the while individuals responsible for retention support the use of relationship marketing techniques, it appears that these relationship marketing techniques have not been fully embraced by all the institutional entities. This is not to say that all the institutions researched have not been successful at obtaining support for the use of relationship marketing techniques but that in general the participants seem to be seeking campus wide acceptance and cooperation.
The third research question asks, Why are these institutions using relationship marketing techniques? There seems to be three major reasons why the five institutions researched are using relationship marketing techniques. First of all, students seem to be more demanding of the services that institutions are providing. This may be a reflection of the consumer culture and competition from other institutions of higher education. Both University A and University B stated that students are more demanding and pragmatic about their education. Students are expecting customer service, individual attention, as well as a quality education. Relationship marketing techniques such as providing more individualized attention and support services may help to create an environment in which students feel more satisfied with their educational experiences.
Secondly, the use of relationship marketing techniques may be a response by these institutions of higher education to a greater number of competitors in educational arena. Students are seemingly attracted to educational providers that are presenting alternatives to the traditional educational experience. Many of these competitors offer promises of customer service, customized learning experiences and attention to students needs. In order to compete in this arena, institutions must be able to satisfy students at all levels of the academic experience from the learning environment to student services.
Thirdly, the use of relationship marketing techniques by these institutions may also represent a response to legislative accountability measures to increase retention. The participants of this research acknowledged that retention is a difficult issue to address. These institutions may be exploring strategies like relationship marketing, that have been shown to be successful for businesses, as a way to retain students. In this competitive market providing more individual attention and developing relationships with students, may result in an increase in retention.
And finally, the last research question asks, What are the similarities and differences in the use of relationship marketing by different Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education? There were a total of five institutions used in this research and three different Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education. According to the Carnegie Classification of
Institutions of Higher Education, University A and University B are Doctoral/Research University-Intensive institutions, College C is a Baccalaureate College-General, and College D and College E are Associates Colleges (CCIHE, 2001).
Even though the three Carnegie Classifications that are represented in this research characterize different types, missions and functions of the five institutions, there are several similarities in their approach to using relationship marketing techniques. In terms of developing personal bonds with students, all of the institutions indicated that personal attention and connections with students is encouraged for faculty and staff. Concern for the students welfare seems to be reflected by all the institutions through an emphasis on customer service, increased student support services (i.e., one-stop student service centers, career counseling) and the development of programs for students with special needs. In addition, the commitment by these institutions to the personal and academic growth of students is evident through each of their mission statements and documents. Regardless of Carnegie Classification all the institutions emphasize providing quality education, and excellence in teaching and learning.
In general, the use of the Carnegie Classifications of Higher Education as a basis of comparison did not exhibit much difference between the three Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education and their use of
relationship marketing techniques. This may be a reflection of location, student population and the fact that the five institutions were all public.
The research was limited in the number of participants involved in this exploratory case study. There were a total of ten participants who were interviewed and five participants who completed the questionnaire. All the participants were directly involved in the development of retention strategies and held relatively high-level administrative positions that may have excluded them from direct involvement in or observation of the implementation of retention activities.
Due to this limitation this research can not conclusively answer the second research question, To what extent are relationship marketing techniques being used by public institutions of higher education? Since relationship marketing is aimed at students (i.e., customers) relationship marketing has its meaning to students at the student-institution interface. It is difficult for these individuals to assess the use of these techniques at their institutions because it is impossible for them to know about the day to day actions of faculty and staff as they implement relationship marketing techniques in their daily work with students. The research would have had to include interviews with individuals who had direct contact with students in order to respond to this question. The
researcher made attempts to respond to this question but due to the nature of the participants the researcher could only make conjectures based on the available information.
The following conclusions can be drawn from the findings outlined in the first section. The conclusions are limited to and by the five institutions researched.
1. The five public institutions of higher education in Colorado are incorporating some relationship marketing techniques in their retention strategies.
2. Based on the definition of relationship marketing (Gronroos, 1990), the five public institutions of higher education seem to be using the following three concepts: development of personal bonds, concern for the welfare of the student, and commitment to the personal and academic growth of the student.
3. The five institutions encourage communication and the development of personal bonds through faculty, staff, and student-to-student interactions.
4. The five institutions show their concern for the students welfare by providing customer service, student support services and structured programs for students with special needs.
5. The five institutions are committed to academic excellence through an emphasis on teaching and learning.
6. The five institutions do not seem to be incorporating the relationship marketing concepts of student fit and retaining/terminating the relationship in their retention strategies.
7. A small number of individuals at each institution are responsible for retention.
Discussion of Findings
The findings from this exploratory case study suggest that public institutions of higher education in Colorado are incorporating some aspects of relationship marketing techniques in their retention strategies. These institutions are attempting to connect the student to the institution through faculty and staff interactions, customer service and student support services. In addition, these institutions have made a commitment to the students academic and personal growth through a quality education, and excellence in teaching and learning.
Public institutions of higher education in Colorado, as well as across the country, are facing issues of accountability, competition from other types of