older student photoWhen going about conducting a campus climate survey, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account. Community colleges have special considerations in the administration of their campus climate surveys. Issues surrounding student demographics and resources can all affect the success and results of your survey. These considerations and differences do not make conducting a campus climate survey on a college campus impossible nor useless. Understanding these differences enable you to make the changes necessary to cater your survey to your particular institutions needs.

Student Demographics

Community colleges have a different student body makeup than that of a traditional 4-year college or university. One of the biggest mistakes you could make while conducting a campus climate survey on a community college campus is to assume that all of your students are the same.

To make sure that you are able to understand your survey results within the context of your different student groups, make sure to ask distinguishing questions, as well a questions that would only apply to those particular students. This can be accomplished by placing skip-questions strategically within your survey; that way, students only answer questions that directly apply to them. Here are a few student types that require special consideration.

Part-time students

Community colleges generally have more part-time students than they do full time students. This differs from more traditional colleges where there is a sizable student population that resides on campus and have more full-time students. When surveying, make sure to take their status into account. Part-time and full-time students may have different experiences on campus. For example, part-time students may be more likely to take night classes to make room for their work schedules and therefore get a different perspective of campus than day students.

2-year degrees

Campus climate surveys are meant to be administered every two years or so. This timeline is useful to see trends over time; conduct the surveys too frequently and it becomes harder to see the effect of policy changes or opinions. The fact that a lot of community college students pursue 2-year degrees means that many students will not be able to participate in a second survey. If many of your community college’s students are pursuing 2-year degrees, it may not make sense to follow up with students for future surveys.

Collecting information from 2-year degree students can still yield useful information even if you won’t be able to follow up with them again in subsequent years, as is the case with 4 year students, which allows for multiple opportunities to survey. In a way, you can use this to your advantage; every two years the majority of your students will be giving you a fresh and potentially less biased data of their experiences on your campus.

Older Students

Community college students tend to have a broader age range and educational backgrounds vs. traditional 4 year colleges and universities.  Make sure that the survey instrument allows for skip/branch logic so certain questions can be skipped if it does not apply to older student demographic.

Commuters

Community colleges see a fair number of students who commute to school. Commuters do not spend the same amount of time on campus, especially at night. They most likely do not live in the campus dorms, where many instances of sexual assault occur. While sexual assault can happen anywhere, anytime, commuters may not be the most helpful group to understanding campus climate. Make sure to ask distinguishing questions to sort answers from those that live on campus and those that don’t.

Community class members

Those involved in community classes are not considered enrolled students. However, they are important to survey because they interact with the campus as well. The problem with community class members is that they may not be involved in the campus awareness campaigns related to the campus climate surveys and may end up not participating in the campus climate survey. Community college’s campus climate survey questionnaire should include demographic questions that allow for segmenting the results by this group.  Your college may wish to forego surveying community class members and focus only on enrolled students, demographic questions can help you make sure of inclusion/exclusion.

Resources

The second biggest distinguisher between traditional 4 year universities and community colleges is resources. Community colleges may not have the funding or research teams that are often considered necessary to conduct a successful campus climate survey. However, do not let your funding or campus resources discourage you. Campus climate surveys can be conducted on budgets and with non-social science research teams.

Lack of funds

Community colleges often work with tight funds. Conducting a full campus climate survey can be an expensive project. For campuses with tight funding, hiring outside consulting teams may make economical sense, especially if you do not want to pay for surveying packages and statistical programs. Fortunately, most colleges have access to at least one of these types of programs, one of the biggest costs of conducting and analyzing a survey.

Other ways to save funds would be to assemble a small but competent team to create and conduct the survey. Besides having a small team, the survey may need to be shortened at first to save money on surveying costs. A small, concisely written survey is better than not administering a survey at all.

No research teams

Not all community colleges have research departments. This is especially relevant to trade and vocational schools who likely do not have the social science research skills or departments often used to conduct campus climate survey. The good thing is that a research department or school of social science is not necessary to conduct a successful campus climate survey. The lack of these main resources just means your college must get more creative with who they pick to create the survey. Research skills transfer into many disciplines, and there are bound to be students or faculty at your community college qualified for the job.

Conclusions

Conducting and administering a campus climate survey to a community college poses its own unique challenges, but it is not an impossible project. With the proper preparations and considerations taken into account, your survey can be successful and bring about valuable information about your campus.

 

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Photo by COD Newsroom  "New Student Orientation"