University Research Update
Office of Institutional Research and Planning
Volume 4, Issue 5, Spring 2001
‘92, ‘94, ‘95, ‘97 and ’99 Cohorts
This report examines results from the ‘92, ‘94, ‘95, ‘97 and ‘99 Entering Student Surveys conducted at Portland State University. The Entering Student Survey was administered to freshmen and new transfer students during the winter term of their first academic year (i.e., 1992-1993, 1994-1995, 1995-1996, 1997-1998 and 1999-2000). The items on the survey focus on students’ initial experiences at PSU. In particular, the questions cover reasons for attending PSU, top concerns, academic intentions and satisfaction with PSU services and information.
FACTORS INFLUENCING THE DECISION TO ATTEND PSU
More freshmen in recent cohorts compared to earlier cohorts reported that the reputation of the university, the reputation of programs, and program offerings were important factors in deciding to attend PSU (see Figure 1). As shown in Figure 2, a similar pattern holds true for new transfer students, although the pattern for transfer students has more variability from year to year.
Two factors that each cohort of new students has rated as "important" or "very important" in their decision to attend PSU are cost and ability to stay in the Portland area. Although cost has always been one of the most important factors, Figure 3 shows that the percentage rating it as important has increased in recent cohorts. In addition, more freshmen than transfer students have rated cost as an important factor.
Figure 4 shows that the importance of being able to stay in Portland as a decisive factor peaked in ‘97-‘98 for freshmen and in ‘95-‘96 for freshmen. The importance of being able to stay in Portland hit its lowest point in the most recent cohort year.
In general, entering students across cohorts are more likely to intend to earn a master’s rather than a bachelor’s degree as their highest degree. Figure 5 shows that the percentage of freshmen planning to earn a master’s degree has increased across cohorts, whereas the percentage planning to earn a bachelor’s degree as their highest has remained relatively constant.
Among transfer students, the percentage intending to earn a bachelor’s degree as their highest degree has generally decreased across cohorts. In contrast, the percentage intending to earn a master’s degree has remained relatively constant until the last cohort year. Between the ‘97 cohort and the ‘99 cohort, the percentage increased five percentage points (see Figure 6).
TOP CONCERNS & PAYING FOR COLLEGE
The top two concerns of entering students are finances and academic
performance. Across freshman cohorts, concern over academic performance
has decreased whereas concern over finances has increased. The ‘99 cohort
was the first freshman cohort in which more freshmen indicated finances
instead of academic performance as their top concern. (See Figure
8.) In contrast, the percentage of transfer students indicating
concern over finances has decreased across cohorts (see Figure
9). Transfer students’ concern with academic performance decreased
through the ‘95-’96 cohort year . Since then, it has begun to increase.
Related to concerns over finances is the finding that more freshmen
in recent cohorts reported applying for financial aid. In the '92 cohort,
59% of freshmen applied for financial aid. In the '99 cohort, 67% of
freshmen applied for financial aid. The percentage of new transfer students
applying for financial aid also increased over this time period. (See
Furthermore, the increasing concern over finances is highlighted by the fact that approximately 75% of entering students plan to work during their first school year. Despite this, a positive trend across cohorts is that increasingly more freshmen plan not to work during the school year. The proportion of transfers who plan not to work has also increased across cohorts, but not as rapidly in comparison to the freshman cohorts. (See Figure 11)
LEVELS OF SATISFACTION WITH SERVICES AND INFORMATION
Satisfaction with publications, advising and service from the Financial Aid Office has increased in recent years among both fresh-men and new transfer students. As shown in Figure 13, freshman satisfaction with Financial Aid service has dramatically increased, with the exception of the '97 cohort. Overall, freshman satisfaction with service increased 25 percentage points between the '92 and the '99 cohorts. Satisfaction with Financial Aid publications rapidly increased in earlier cohort years, but now seems to have reached a plateau. Freshman satisfaction with Financial Aid advising, with the exception of the '97 cohort, continues to rise, with an overall increase of 16 percentage points since the '92 cohort. The '95 new transfer cohort rated Financial Aid advising and services higher than any other cohort. Recent cohorts have not sustained this high level of satisfaction, however, the overall trend line continues to increase across cohorts (see Figure 14).
Students are choosing PSU, in part, because of its reputation and program offerings. Many entering students have the goal of earning a master’s as their highest educational degree. Although cost is a top concern, more students are choosing not to work and are applying for financial aid. More and more students are satisfied with the services from the Financial Aid Office. For further information about the survey, please contact Juliette Stoering, Office of Institutional Research and Planning, 503-725-3427, email@example.com, or go to the OIRP Website, www.oirp.pdx.edu.
Jodi Brekhus, Graduate Assistant, and Juliette Stoering, Institutional Research Analyst created this edition of the Portland State University Research Update.