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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Qualitative & Quantitative Research for University Advancement and Student Affairs Divisions. California State University, Northridge August 6, 2007.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Qualitative & Quantitative Research for University Advancement and Student Affairs Divisions

California State University, NorthridgeAugust 6, 2007

i freshman transfer student recruitment key audience research

I. Freshman & Transfer Student RecruitmentKey Audience Research

Conducted Spring 2007 for CSUN Division of Student Affairs

project objectives
Project Objectives
  • Gain a better understanding of the motivations and decision factors of high school seniors and community college students involved in the college application process.
  • Obtain insights into the current perspectives of potential applicants and their advisors regarding CSUN.
  • Inform future positioning and communications strategies in order to recruit a larger number of academically prepared students.
research methodology
Research Methodology


  • Strategic Briefing Session
  • Current CSUN Student Focus Groups
  • Communications review
  • Recruiter focus group


  • College-bound High School & Community College Student Focus groups (6)
  • College Counselors Interviews (18)
  • High School and Community College Student Surveys (591 respondents: 7 high schools, 2 community colleges)
overview csun image awareness
OVERVIEW CSUN Image & Awareness
  • High level of name recognition; little understanding of academic programs/activities.
  • Overall impressions were neutral to good.
  • General agreement regarding attractive campus, suburban/urban experience.
  • Best programs: business, education, entertainment, music, speech pathology/deaf studies and engineering.
  • A place to get a good, solid education; may not offer the “college experience” some may be seeking.
  • Does a very good job of preparing students for success in “the real world.”
csun image continued
CSUN Image (continued)
  • Location is a plus and a minus.
  • Perceived as very easy to get into
  • CSUN is not for the prestige conscious.
  • The school of choice for those who want to attend a 4-year college and stay close to home.
  • Re: nomenclature, both Cal State Northridge and CSUN have a place:

- Cal State Northridge is formal and prestigious - “CSUN” is friendly and approachable.

college counselor mind set
College Counselor Mind Set
  • View each student as an individual
  • Seek to “find the right fit” : GPA, finances, family dynamics, location, comfort with size of school, etc.
  • Students see college counselors as allies
  • Correlation between time invested by universities and recruitment success
  • Personality of recruiter is key to success
college counselor mind set continued
College Counselor Mind Set (continued)
  • CSUN has excellent faculty (teaching focus a positive for students, may limit the school reputation vis a vis research).
  • Do not believe it can be the top choice for the 4.0+ students.
  • Do believe can be school of choice for 3.0-3.7 students for specific programs and/or if finances an issue.
  • Primary competition is CSUs and less competitive UCs, plus UCs using the “transfer strategy.”
  • Handling of accepted students is not always timely, personal or organized – may cause loss of students.
other influencers
Other Influencers
  • Parents are influential for high school students – but rarely the final decision makers.
  • Parents’ roles diminish substantially with community college students.
  • Independent college counselors do not appear to be a significant factor in these schools
student decision making trends
Student Decision Making Trends
  • Overall institution reputation is important, but most students go deeper and look carefully at individual majors and programs.
  • Factors that most frequently influence college decisions are: - visits to campus - academic opportunity - preparation for a good job - overall reputation - specific majors
  • Communication via multiple channels: email, websites, in person, phone calls and written letters.
  • Do not use Instant and text messaging, online chats or blogs
  • Attending state school for 2 years to minimize expenses a growing trend
  • -
student decision making trends continued
Student Decision Making Trends (continued)
  • Competitive UC’s actively encouraging high school students to pursue a transfer strategy
  • Ultimately, students are comfortable making college choices that they believe are right for them, despite what their parents, counselors or friends think.
  • -
csun recruitment perceptions
CSUN Recruitment Perceptions
  • Varies by school site, from very positive to somewhat negative.
  • Positive schools had active CSUN representatives who carried out a variety of activities at the school site
  • Negative schools felt CSUN representatives not always available, couldn’t answer questions or relate to students, information not always timely or accurate.
  • Getting students to visit CSUN is critically important
csun recruitment materials
CSUN Recruitment Materials
  • In focus groups, print information was viewed as attractive, organized and on par with other institutions
  • In survey, only 1/3 of students felt materials increased their interest in the campus
  • CSUN’s communications, (electronic and print) are more compelling to community college students than high school students

Question 1: Which of the following factors influenced your decision on where to go to college? (check all that apply)

top 10 factors influencing college decision making
Top 10 factors influencing college decision making

With only slight variations in rank order, students at both high schools and community colleges identify the same factors as being influential in selecting the college they will attend.

High school

Comm. College


Question 2:a) What do you think are the best ways for YOU to get information/communicate with colleges, and b) What do you think are the best ways for COLLEGES to communicate with you? (check all that apply)

preferred method of communication
Preferred method of communication

Students clearly prefer communicating with colleges via a mix of email, websites, in person, telephone and written letters; there is very little interest in using other methods for this purpose.


Question 3:During your college search process a) Did you get information directly from CSUN in any of the following ways, and b) How did it affect your interest?

materials received from csun
Materials received from CSUN

About half the high school students and one third of college students recalled receiving electronic and print materials from CSUN; about 1/3 had personal contact with a CSUN representative at some point in the process.

effect of materials on interest in csun
Effect of Materials on Interest in CSUN

The materials and information received from CSUN increased the interest about one third of high school students. Impact on community college students was greater for every type of media, particularly personal contact with a CSUN representative.


Question 4:Please rate each of the following statements about CSUN in two ways: a) Do you believe it is true or false? b) If it is true, would it increase your interest in CSUN?

highest credibility statements high school students
Highest Credibility Statements - High School Students

The majority of students have no opinion of CSUN on most attributes. Of those who have opinions, they are primarily positive. Items of note include strong agreement with the first two statements, and high number of students whose friends and family do not think highly of CSUN

True False Don’t Know

highest credibility statements college students
Highest Credibility Statements - College Students

Like high school students, nearly half of college students believe that CSUN offers “the best of both worlds” in terms of urban/suburban, and that the campus is attractive. They are also slightly more likely to believe CSUN has a thriving student community, offers on campus cultural opportunities and cares about their students.

True False Don’t Know

most influential statements
Most influential Statements
  • Nearly half of these high school students and 3/4 of community college students would be more interested in CSUN if they knew the following statements to be true:
  • Students from CSUN are well prepared and get into top graduate schools.
  • Some CSUN departments and programs are among the best in the U.S.
  • CSUN is the best of both worlds – close to the excitement and opportunities of LA, but located in a nearby suburb.
  • CSUN specializes in giving students hands-on learning so they can hit the ground running in their careers.
  • There are plenty of on-campus cultural and entertainment opportunities for students.
  • There are many internship opportunities preparing students for grad school/workplace.
  • CSUN campus is very safe.
  • CSUN cares about its students.
  • CSUN campus is an attractive, park-like place.
  • CSUN has outstanding faculty who truly care about their students.

II. Quantitative Study of Alumni and Friends of California State University, Northridge

Conducted for California State University Northridge

University Advancement

Spring 2007

research objectives
Research Objectives
  • Update and compare the benchmark study conducted in 2002, “taking the pulse” of alumni donors, alumni non donor prospects and “Friends.”
  • Include an additional audience: “Found alumni” (graduated 1958-1979, have been receiving communications for 2 years).
  • Explore additional topics.
  • Develop recommendations for refining communications strategies.
overview perceptions of csun
OVERVIEW: Perceptions of CSUN
  • Overall perceptions of the University are positive, but general.
  • Still no strong top of mind “brand identity” associated with the University.
  • Positive shift in perceptions of “quality of instruction” and “preparation for the workforce,”among Alumni donors and Alumni non donors.Friends’ opinions are unchanged.
  • “Overall quality of the institution,” “faculty quality” and “importance to the regional economy” were rated very positively by over ¾ of respondents.
  • Cultural and community service contribution rated highly by over 2/3 of respondents.
overview ratings of key attributes
OVERVIEW: Ratings of Key Attributes
  • “Quality of the student experience,”“customer service orientation,”“impact of alumni”and“research contribution”pose the biggest challenges - only half the respondents give these high ratings.
  • Compared with 2002 results, opinions on “quality of instruction” improved, ratings for “economic importance” and “community service” fell somewhat. Other attributes remained constant.
  • There was an increase in the number of “don’t know” responses to several questions, particularly the President’s Priorities, which appears to have reduced the number of positive ratings.
summary top ratings given to csun rated 4 or 5 on a 5 point scale
SUMMARY: Top Ratings Given to CSUN (rated 4 or 5 on a 5 point scale)



overview campus visits
OVERVIEW: Campus Visits
  • Friends are more likely to have been on campus recently
  • Top reason for visit is to attend a cultural event
  • Campus visits have dropped significantly for all groups since 2002
overview information sources
OVERVIEW: Information Sources
  • The majority feel they hear from CSUN every 1-6 months, and are satisfied with that timing.
  • Direct mail is by far the main source of information.
  • Very fewvisit the website - those who do find it useful.
  • About 3/4 of those who are aware of the University’s publications find them valuable; 25-50% are not aware of specific publications.
  • A correlation exists between those who read and value Northridge Magazine and Community@CSUN and those who give CSUN significantly higher than average ratings for: cultural contribution; community service contribution; research contribution; alumni impact, and success in strengthening connections to the community and enhancing private support for the University.
respondents who receive and value northridge magazine
Respondents who receive and value Northridge Magazine


Respondents who reported they read Northridge Magazine and found it valuable (rated it 4 or 5) also had a statistically higher opinion of CSUN than the general respondent population had, on the following attributes.

Value Northridge Full Magazine sample

Rated the following attributes 4 or 5 on a five point scale

n = 429 the base sample size for each attribute, made up of respondents who rated Northridge Magazine and who also gave a response to the attribute question (i.e. “don’t knows” from both questions were removed.)

respondents who receive and value community@csun
Respondents who receive and value Community@CSUN


Respondents who reported they read Community@CSUN and found it valuable (rated it 4 or 5) also had a statistically higher opinion of CSUN than the general respondent population had, on the following attributes.

Value Community Full @CSUN sample

Rated the following attributes 4 or 5 on a five point scale

n = the base sample size for each attribute, made up of respondents who rated Community@CSUN and who also gave a response to the attribute question (i.e. “don’t knows” from both questions were removed.)

overview president s priorities
OVERVIEW: President’s Priorities

1.Strengthening connections to the community

2. Enhancing private support of the University

3. Maintaining a user friendly campus

  • About 40% of respondents responded “don’t know” to questions of how well the University was achieving the president’s priorities.
  • However, of those who felt qualified to answer, over 70% felt the University is doing an “excellent or good” job on all three.
  • Friends -- who visit campus more than the other groups -- gave the highest ratings in community connections and user-friendliness.
overview personal attachment to csun
OVERVIEW: Personal Attachment to CSUN
  • Alumni were asked to characterize their feelings about CSUN. The most prevalent emotion is gratitude, felt strongly by nearly 60% of alumni; nearly half feelproud of their association with the University, about 1/3 feel strong sense of loyalty.
overview personal attachment to csun36
OVERVIEW: Personal Attachment to CSUN
  • Almost 2/3 of alumni would be definitely or somewhat likely to encourage their own child attend CSUN.
  • Most common reasons for sending their child to CSUN include the quality of education and the good reputation of the school.
  • Most predominant reasonfor not encouraging their child to attend CSUN was location.


  • Reframe current messaging into 3-4 clear and consistent themes that focus on attributes, that bring the strongest qualities of the University to the top of alumni and friends’ minds.
  • Intensify efforts across all media to provide specific evidence of how the University is strengthening ties to the community, enhancing private support and maintaining a user friendly campus.


  • Actively develop and promote reasons to come to campus, including athletic events, to cultivate stronger relationships with alumni
  • Consider expanding publication distribution
  • Re-orient communications from institution-centric focus to reader-benefit focus, better demonstrate the value and relevance of the University to its constituents.
  • Communicate better internally (among departments, colleges, faculty and staff) regarding key message points.
  • Use print media and email outreach to drive visits to the website


  • Create specific message theme highlighting alumni and their feelings of gratitude toward the University.
  • Aggressively update lists or otherwise expand contact information to obtain a more diverse ethnic and age representation of both alumni and friends.
common perceptions
Common Perceptions
  • The populations included in these two studies were notably different across key demographic variables, particularly age and ethnic background. Yet, they were strikingly similar in their perceptions of Cal State Northridge.
  • Perceptions are positive to neutral – awareness is high, in-depth understanding is low.
  • There is interest in learning more compelling and relevant information about CSUN’s programs and people.
  • Communications must be through multiple channels.
  • Communications tone and focus must be audience-centric.
  • Getting people to visit campus is key to building and strengthening bonds among all audiences