Retention task force uses prizes to encourage survey participation at WKU

Joanna Williams

When Lawrenceburg freshman Brittani Wilhelm recently received an email asking her to take a survey, she wasn’t sure if she would — until she saw the prizes she could win.

Wilhelm didn’t know it at the time, but she was exactly the type of student WKU’s retention task force was hoping to appeal to take their surveys from Making Achievement Possible Works.

Sharon Hunter, coordinator of Developmental Education, said the first 400 students to take the survey won $10 in Big Red Dollars which they can use at on-campus or at select off-campus locations. Other prizes include two $500 book scholarships and free room and board for the spring 2012 semester.

These incentives are intended to increase the likelihood for the maximum amount of responses, Hunter said.

Brian Meredith, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, said the survey covers an extensive list of things that can affect a student’s time while in college.

“Academics, student life, homesickness — you name it,” he said. “Any kind of experience a student can have at WKU is provided in this survey.”

The surveys went out on Sept. 27 and will continue through Monday.

Hunter said that more than 1,200 first-year students — 33 percent of the freshman class — have taken the survey so far.

Aside from the logos, pictures, and where to go for assistance, the task force has kept the original survey questions from MAP-Works.

“We tried to make it have as much of a WKU feel to it as we could,” Hunter said.

After students have completed the survey they are offered the chance to view a report on how they compare to other WKU and college students nationally.

If the student has been deemed to be at risk of not returning, the university will reach out in whatever way is needed. Hunter said five weeks from now the task force will again survey the students who were at risk to see if anything has changed.

Hunter said surveys are something people despise taking, and if a person isn’t getting anything from it the chances of them taking it goes down.

“The return on investment is incredible,” she said. “If we retain one student that will more than make up for the price of all the prizes.”

Meredith said that living on campus, buying books and using Big Red Dollars are all things that contribute to the “WKU experience,” making them worthy prizes for students.

“The more students who complete it, the more information we have and the better we can make the program,” Meredith said.

Hunter said the overall goal is to have more students come back to complete their degree.

“The true test to see if we’ve been effective is in the fall when students come back,” she said. “We’ll get to see if we moved closer to the 80 percent marker the president and provost hopes to see us make.”