Friday, March 09, 2007

Hierarchy of Student Need 1

Over the past two years, we have been interviewing students to listen and better understand what they seek from college. We also sought to hear what motivates them to make their decisions to choose a school or leave it.

There is much we learned from the 624 students. One of the things we came to understand is that there is a hierarchy of student need that guides some of their decision-making in choosing a school, then deciding to stay or leave. These take the form of five questions they consider when looking at a college.

  1. Can I get in?
  2. Can I afford it?
  3. Can I graduate?
  4. Can I get a job? (or get into a good grad school)
  5. Will I enjoy it?

In some ways the questions parallel the organization of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. They proceed from basic issues of necessity and immediacy to considerations of ROI, the future and even an issue of satisfaction. But, the question of a satisfying experience is the last issue for consideration by students. This placement suggests a parallel to Maslow’s self-actualization. It can only be an issue after the very practical survival issues are addressed.

So what does this say to us?

It says that students have a very practical view toward their college experience. And so customer service needs to focus on their concerns and how they see college. They see it, as we already know from the UCLA Freshman Attitudes study, the CIRP, as a means to an end. For students, that end is quite practical. A job. It also says that when we focus too much on trying to make students enjoy their experience, we are not serving them as well as we could.

Yes, they wish to enjoy their time at college but they cannot do that until we serve their other more pressing concerns – paying for it, getting what they need to graduate and finally, an assurance they can get a job or get into a good grad school on the way to a career from their college experience.

No comments: