Student satisfaction hits new highs

George Brown College sees large increases with student satisfaction in facilities and services at Casa Loma campus

The term “KPI” means little to most students. For most, it means a lecture sidetracked by an officious-looking survey from the Ontario government, completed, collected and mentally set aside.

But KPIs, or “Key Performance Indicators,” are the figurative finger on the pulse of any college, giving a glimpse of its progress, current health, and the future prognosis. And for George Brown College (GBC), and Casa Loma campus in particular, the news is good.

On April 19, Colleges Ontario released 2017’s KPI results for post-secondary institutions across the province. The data, gathered through surveys, is derived from three sources: current students, recent graduates and employers.

This data is used for many purposes, from securing funding from the province to drawing comparisons between schools to helping identify and address issues on an institutional level.

While student satisfaction at GBC increased across the board compared to 2016, continuing a gradual improvement sustained for the past decade, a particularly-sharp increase was seen in two areas: satisfaction with facilities and resources, and satisfaction with services.

A slide from a presentation at college council shows how student satisfaction with facilities and resources GBC has climbed from 50% to 74% in the past 15 years.

Student satisfaction with college services was just 57.7 per cent in 2015 and has climbed to 62.8 percent in the past two years. Campus-specific data shows that these increases are fairly evenly distributed across GBC.

The significant gains in student satisfaction with facilities and resources becomes much more revealing when broken down by campuses.

Satisfaction with facilities and resources at Waterfront, for example, is high and has always been high; it sat at 82 per cent in 2015, and is currently 85 per cent. The centre for hospitality & culinary arts and St. James campus have seen similarly-modest improvements.

The change at Casa Loma campus, on the other hand, is remarkable. In 2015, only 59 per cent of students were happy with the facilities and resources available; in 2016, it rose to 65 per cent; and this year, it hit 74 per cent.

So what accounts for such a pronounced improvement in Casa Loma students’ satisfaction with that campus’ facilities?

As the survey questions are fairly broad, it’s impossible to assert any particular factor as the definite cause, but some educated guesses can be made.

At Casa Loma, student satisfaction with libraries, study spaces and internet or WiFi all saw significant increases between 2016 and 2017, said Suzanne Dwyer, director of institutional research and planning at GBC.

Casa Loma recreational facilities, such as the Casa Loma gym and the Student Centre that were recently renovated, also saw a significant bump in 2017.

Dwyer was quick to caution that these connections are just supposition, and that students did not specifically assert improvements to these resources as the explicit cause of their increased overall satisfaction with available facilities and resources.

In addition, Dwyer noted, some survey questions such as those asking about student satisfaction with food or bookstore services can give ambiguous results as it’s impossible to know if students are rating the service itself as is intended or the prices they charge.

One thing that we can say for sure: George Brown College, especially at Casa Loma, is doing something right, and that stamp of approval comes directly from the students themselves.

George Brown student satisfaction by the numbers

A slide shows the 2017 student satisfaction capstone questions by campus at George Brown College.

There are four “capstone” questions on the KPI survey that determine what the overall student satisfaction scores are.

84.4 per cent of GBC students agreed or strongly agreed that “your program is giving you knowledge and skills that will be useful in your future career”, 0.4 percentage points higher than 2016.

76.2 per cent of GBC students were satisfied or strongly satisfied with “the overall quality of the learning experiences in this program”, up 0.9 percentage points from 2016.

62.8 per cent of students were satisfied or strongly satisfied with “the overall quality of the services in the college”, a significant increase of 3.4 percentage points from the previous year.

74.7 per cent of GBC students were satisfied or strongly satisfied with “the overall quality of the facilities/resources in the college”, a notable increase of 4.1 percentage points from 2016.

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Student satisfaction hits new highs