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Student services assessments in colleges and universities: Current practices in one state and recommendations for improvements

Brian Joseph Bartolini, Johnson & Wales University


The current movement in higher education toward assessment is well established (Chaffee et al., 1997; Ewell & Jones, 1996). Accrediting bodies often require institutions to demonstrate their processes for assessing and measuring performance outcomes; state governments often do the same for state institutions. In addition, as students and families are increasingly bearing the cost of higher education, they are demanding greater accountability on the part of collegiate institutions (Schuh & Upcraft, 2001). Although the need to assess is acknowledged, the types of instruments and activities used and, more importantly, the specific processes by which institutions utilize assessment data have not been fully addressed. The research detailing the specific instruments employed by higher education institutions and the specific actions taken by administrators in response to student services assessment data in particular are not substantial. The importance of this issue merits increased scholarly attention. The purpose of this study was: (1) to describe the student services assessment instruments and activities at higher educational institutions within one state and (2) to develop a model assessment approach based on these findings and the feedback of student services leaders and noted assessment experts. A qualitative, descriptive approach, marked by semi-structured interviewing, was used as the means for determining student services assessment information for each participating institution. Ten of 11 undergraduate degree-granting institutions in a small, southern New England state participated in this study. Descriptive statistics and content analysis were used to examine and interpret the research data. Colleges and universities in the participating state were engaged in more assessment-related activities than ever before. However, student services assessment still was not a firmly situated aspect of institutional culture; it had not become a habitual, day-to-day responsibility for the majority of student services or institutional research divisions. Increased data collection had not led to an equivalent increase in data utilization. To help bridge this gap between data availability and use, a best practice model was created. The model was designed to promote effective student services assessment activities in the participating state and to assist those in other institutions and states facing a similar dilemma.

Subject Area

Higher education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Bartolini, Brian Joseph, "Student services assessments in colleges and universities: Current practices in one state and recommendations for improvements" (2002). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3055173.