Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award

May 1996


Because of the increasing emphasis on the accountability of higher education, constituents of the academy have searched for reliable and valid measures of institutional effectiveness. One measure of institutional effectiveness, gaining in popularity with accountability proponents, has been the assessment of overall student satisfaction. To build a link between student satisfaction and institutional effectiveness, past researchers have made the assumption that a relationship exists between these two constructs. This assumption has been grounded in a further supposition that a congruency exists between the criteria used by students to determine satisfaction and the criteria used by higher education administrators to evaluate institutional effectiveness. However, neither the assumption of relationship nor supposition of congruency have been established in empirical research. Utilizing a qualitative research design, 8 focus group sessions were conducted with 94 undergraduate students who attended on-campus, day classes at a southern, comprehensive, regional university during the fall semester, 1995. Four focus group sessions were conducted with 24 administrators in the internal dominant coalition of the same university. An interview was held with the university president. Content analysis was used to analyze the data from each focus group session. Data from the undergraduate student sample were reduced into 7 attitude patterns. Each attitude pattern included student discussions on different aspects of the college experience important to overall student satisfaction with the academy. Furthermore, the data were analyzed for attitude pattern differences based on grade cohort and demographics. Several important differences in student satisfaction attitudes were reported. The data collected from the administrator sample were reduced into 5 attitude patterns. Each attitude pattern included administrator discussions on important variables in the evaluation of institutional effectiveness. Student satisfaction and institutional effectiveness criteria were gleaned from these attitude patterns. (All attitude patterns are reported in detail.) Twenty-one student criteria for determining overall satisfaction were grouped into 5 criteria categories: (a) career aspirations; (b) personal development and growth; (c) education; (d) characteristics of the ideal university; and (e) accomplishment. Twelve administrator criteria for evaluating institutional effectiveness were collapsed into 3 categories: (a) inputs, (b) operations, and (c) outcomes. Based on the findings of this study, a congruency was found between the criteria students use to determine overall student satisfaction and the criteria administrators use to evaluate institutional effectiveness. Recommendations were made for the improvement of student satisfaction assessment and the utilization of satisfaction assessment results in defining institutional effectiveness.

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access