New Student Experience Trends Dashboard from Qualtrics and College Pulse gauges the current state of the postsecondary student experience and highlights opportunities for institutions to prioritize student well-being
Key findings of the research include students lacking awareness of mental health resources, experiencing discrimination and feeling unprepared to enter the workforce
Incorporating student feedback into institutional decision making is associated with a higher level of student satisfaction
Higher education institutions are falling short in supporting student well-being as mental health issues continue to have substantial impact on young adults, new research from Qualtrics (Nasdaq: XM) in partnership with College Pulse found. The 2023 Student Experience Trends study found nearly one in five students (18%) don't know if they have mental health resources available to them, and among students who are aware of mental health resources, over half (55%) reported problems with the resources.
The research comes at a crucial time during Mental Health Awareness Month, and as young adults (aged 18-25) in the United States have the highest prevalence of mental health illness compared to any other age group, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. To identify and understand the student perspective on key moments in the student journey from postsecondary education to job readiness, College Pulse and Qualtrics surveyed over 2,700 community college, four-year undergraduate and graduate students across the US. The research aims to inform critical areas of improvement for the student experience, including mental health, discrimination and post-graduation preparedness.
As mental health challenges persist, higher education institutions are faced with the need to provide better student support
As studies consistently show, students face challenges with accessing mental health resources. The 2023 Student Experience Trends study found more than half of students (55%) reported problems with mental health resources, with 27% saying the biggest problem is that students don’t know what’s available to them. Similarly, less than half of students (47%) reported that they would be likely to use their institutional resources if they were having a mental health crisis. This issue is further exacerbated with certain types of students:
- Lack of awareness of available mental health resources is 21 percentage points higher for students at two-year colleges compared to students at four-year colleges (32% compared to 11%).
- Students at public institutions are 10 percentage points less likely than students at private institutions to say they would use institutional resources in a crisis situation (44% compared to 54%).
Students cited other problems with using mental health resources: 19% of respondents noted long wait times, 15% reported the system is difficult to navigate, and 6% cited resources are too costly.
“This data showcases an opportunity for higher education leaders to improve the quality, availability and promotion of mental health resources in order to improve the student experience and their overall well-being,” said Dr. Katie Johnson, senior research manager for education at Qualtrics. “Research shows that the psychiatric workforce is shrinking at the same time that student needs for mental health support are growing. While the value of a trained counselor cannot be replaced, technology-powered solutions can improve efficiency by helping institutions understand student barriers to using mental health resources, opportunities for improvement and the ways students want to be supported, freeing up more time for counselors to focus on directly supporting students.”
Discrimination and sense of belonging are critical to address
The dashboard uncovers new insights on the prevalence of discrimination in higher education institutions, with nearly one in three students (31%) sharing they have experienced discrimination. For students who identify as a gender other than binary male or female, 75% noted they’ve experienced discrimination. Students of color also reported having experienced discrimination at higher rates than their white counterparts.
A student’s sense of belonging and overall satisfaction with their higher education experience is impacted when they face instances of discrimination or when diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) needs are not met:
- The types of discrimination most often reported by students were based on race (11%), political views (10%), social class (7%), religion (6%) and gender identity or expression (6%).
- The majority of students (62%) agree that leaders make DEI a priority. However, just under half (47%) say they are free to voice their opinion on controversial topics without fear of repercussions. On both measures, students of color and those who identify as a gender other than male or female are less likely to agree.
- Students who feel connected to their peers have a higher sense of belonging. Overall, 64% of students feel like they belong at their institution but this number is 55 percentage points higher (87% compared to 32%) among students who feel connected to their peers.
“An institutional culture that fosters diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t just a nice to have, it’s an imperative to make students feel like they belong and can thrive at their institution, driving overall satisfaction, success and retention,” continued Johnson.
Workforce preparation is key to student perception of value of higher education
The dashboard also examines students’ concerns around preparedness to begin college-level coursework, as well as post-graduation preparedness to enter the workforce. For college readiness, only about a third of students (32%) reported that their high school education made them feel very or extremely prepared for undergraduate-level coursework.
Preparedness for undergraduate education varied based on the following factors:
- Private high school students felt more prepared than students from public high schools
- First generation college students felt less prepared than students with a parent who completed college
- Students of color and Hispanic students felt less prepared than white students
When it comes to workforce readiness, 68% of students reported that their current education is preparing them for the job they want after graduation. This subset of students were more likely to think that their education is worth the cost (70% compared to 25%), a critical component of student satisfaction with their higher education experience. When asked to make a tradeoff between a great student experience with lower job prospects or a poor student experience with higher job prospects, 59% of students preferred the option with higher job prospects.
“For the 31% of students who reported considering transferring from their higher education institution in the last year, the most common reason cited was not feeling supported,” continued Johnson. “We’re hearing directly from students that they’re more satisfied with their experience when their institution listens, understands and acts on their feedback. Doing so is critical for student success and institutional success.”
For more, see the 2023 Student Experience Trends Dashboard.
In January of 2023, Qualtrics and College Pulse launched a student experience survey to 2,700+ current college students in the United States. The survey includes nationally representative data of community college, 4-year undergraduate and graduate students. Findings uncover student perceptions in key areas of the student experience: high school to college transition, admissions, onboarding, campus safety, student voice, DEI and belonging, mental health, job readiness, education value and student outcomes.
About College Pulse
College Pulse is a survey research and analytics company dedicated to understanding the attitudes, preferences and behaviors of today’s college students. College Pulse delivers custom data-driven marketing and research solutions, utilizing its unique American College Student Panel™ that includes over 750,000 college students and recent alumni from 1,500 two- and four-year colleges and universities in all 50 states. For more information, visit collegepulse.com or @CollegeInsights on Twitter.
About Qualtrics XM for Education
With over 20 years of experience in education, Qualtrics now serves over 1,000 education institutions across K-12 and Higher Education around the world—including 99 of the top 100 business schools and over half of the top 50 U.S. school districts—helping them understand and improve the experiences they deliver. Qualtrics solutions are purpose-built to help leaders in education understand experiences across departments, take the right actions to attract and retain students and staff and increase engagement and success. Qualtrics’ XM for Education solutions uncover unique insights into the student journey and empower school leaders to close experience gaps—driving increases in enrollment, retention and graduation. To learn more, please visit qualtrics.com/education.
Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is a cloud-native software provider that helps organizations quickly identify and resolve points of friction across all digital and human touchpoints in their business – so they can retain their best customers and employees, protect their revenue, and drive profitability. More than 18,750 organizations around the world use Qualtrics’s advanced AI to listen, understand, and take action. Qualtrics uses its vast universe of experience data to form the largest database of human sentiment in the world. Qualtrics is co-headquartered in Provo, Utah and Seattle, and operates out of 28 offices globally. To learn more, please visit qualtrics.com.
“An institutional culture that fosters diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t just a nice to have, it’s an imperative to make students feel like they belong and can thrive at their institution, driving overall satisfaction, success and retention.”