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Columbia College Chicago
Graduating Student Survey
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Graduating Student Survey

The Survey

The Graduating Student Survey (GSS) is a tool used by Columbia College Chicago to better understand its student body by surveying the makeup, future plans, and overall experiences of graduating students during their time at the college. It measures students' attitudes and levels of satisfaction regarding the college's services, facilities, quality of instruction and breadth of curriculum, as well as their views about how these areas have affected their personal and educational growth. The GSS also collects information on students' future professional and educational plans.

The trend report compares results from the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Graduating Student Surveys, comparing the results side by side to observe how students' views have changed over the past 3 years, identifying any gains the college has made during that time, and identifying challenges. In most categories, graduating students indicated stable or improved levels of satisfaction.

To learn more about the survey’s key findings and about Columbia's graduating class click on one of the images below:


School Strengths

Mirroring results in other surveys, graduating student respondents feel that they have grown intellectually and have expanded their creative and artistic abilities. Among skills achieved while at Columbia, learning independently and defining and solving problems received high marks. Columbia's diversity shows up not in the distribution of students but in student perception. Graduates noted the cultural diversity, indicating that they have greater understanding of differing philosophies and cultures. As in other surveys the Library also receives high marks.

Strengths Chart
School Challenges

While Residence Life and the food services received the lowest marks in the categories of student experiences and services, of more concern is the number of respondents who indicated that they are less ready for either an advanced education or a career. Similar low marks for the overall services and support and a lukewarm recommendation of the college to their peers with similar interests are also of concern.

Challenges Chart

Satisfaction with and respect for faculty members remain high. Similar data about high faculty satisfaction has been reported in other surveys such as NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) and the SSI (Student Satisfaction Inventory). Survey respondents have a more dual viewpoint regarding the faculty. Respondents believe that faculty are active members in their profession and have up-to-date knowledge in their field, but rated faculty lower in areas such as understanding student needs and the quality of the actual instruction.

Faculty Chart
Learning Experiences

Students were asked about what experiences (learning and otherwise) were important in helping them achieve their degree. Personal passion for their art was foremost, but in general, the most important part of their eventual success was the connection and the collaboration with faculty and students within their department or major. Internships and departmental projects and/or performances followed. Less important was cross departmental collaboration, a connection with the overall college community or availability of support services, and co-curricular activities.

Experiences Chart
Curriculum in the Major

Graduating student respondents in general gave the course content within their major high marks. They indicated that the major provided knowledge and skills that would be useful in their occupation, that the course helped them consider new ideas and that the content was current. Respondents were slightly less satisfied with the technology and instructional material used in their major and the overall quality of the education. The perception that the courses were academically demanding fell in the bottom third. Opportunities to showcase their work and the availability of internships received the lowest marks.

Major Chart
LAS Core

In general, the quality of the course content within the LAS core scored much lower than the course content within the major. The exception to this, not surprisingly, is graduate respondents whose major fell within the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, for example Education majors, and students from departments such as Fiction Writing and Marketing Communication. Nevertheless, as a whole, graduate survey respondents had perceived that their LAS core classes were less useful in their future occupation, the material and technology used was less current and useful, and fewer respondents indicated that the quality of the curriculum was “excellent.” The perception that the LAS core classes were academically demanding received the lowest mark.

LASCore Chart



In general, Columbia graduates’ overall satisfaction with services and academics has been improving but the school still has some challenges. The perception of graduates that they are not prepared for their career or an advanced education could represent graduation jitters or an indication that the Columbia curriculum has gaps in what is provided and needed by students.

We would note that there has been a great deal of discussion across campus about cross departmental collaboration and the inability of students to “explore.” However, when asked what the most important experience leading to graduation was, they almost exclusively cited collaboration and connection within a major or department. The question then, is this a function of a student's inability to explore or is this an indication that a more focused experience is what students desire?

We would also like to point out the importance of getting an internship to a student's eventual success, but would also note that the unavailability of internships still remains a big issue. This has been cited in a number of surveys.

Finally, while much like in other surveys faculty gets high marks overall, the high scores are related more to knowledge and their standing as professionals. The quality of instruction is less highly regarded. When looking at satisfaction levels of students who choose not to continue at Columbia (see studies based on the SSI and NSSE surveys), quality of instruction and overall program quality surface as issues. As student expectations continue to rise, this is an area we feel the college should continue to examine.


The Columbia College respondent sample included Columbia College graduates from 2011 to 2013. The survey questions were ranked on a scale of -2 to 2, e.g.: Strongly Agree (2), Somewhat Agree (1), Neutral (0), Somewhat Disagree (-1), Strongly Disagree (-2).

Full results from the past three administrations as well as information regarding construction of the benchmarks are available upon request. For more information, contact Quinn Milton in the office of Institutional Effectiveness at (312) 369-7074 or qmilton@colum.edu.