Service on the community college campus: The Millennial generation perspective

Fisher, Kristie
Major Professor
Larry H. Ebbers
Committee Member
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

The purpose of this phenomenological study is to explore how Millennial generation students (born 1982 or after) experience the services they receive in the community college setting at Kirkwood Community College, a comprehensive community college in a suburban setting in eastern Iowa. The overarching research question for the study is: How do Millennial generation students describe their experiences with service staff on the Kirkwood campus? Among the secondary research questions include: How widely do Millennial generation students describe themselves as "customers" of the community college? How can the characteristics of the Millennial generation help community colleges understand the relationship between the Millennial students and the community college service staff?

With over 90 million Millennials living in the U.S. (Howe and Strauss, 2007), community colleges are experiencing the first wave of the Millennial students arriving on campuses. In order to thrive, community colleges need to more effectively serve the needs of this generation as community colleges compete for students with four-year institutions and proprietary colleges. The quality of instruction will not be the only deciding factor for attracting students; early indications note Millennial students and their parents will also expect quality service in the whole college experience.

In this study, Millennial generation students consistently described their experiences with service staff at Kirkwood Community College in a positive light. Overall, they were very satisfied with how they were treated and with the service they received. The participants seemed to agree that the constructed environment (Strange & Banning, 2001) is positive and a good service experience. Even when less than positive experiences were discussed, the participants usually shared that these services were justified or easily explained.

The majority of the Millennial participants in this study believed the term "customer" described their out-of-the-classroom experiences but not the full community college experience. Consequently, the use of the term customer on the community college campus was not widely used; when used it was usually qualified by the participants to exclude classroom experiences.

The results of this study can be used to inform professional development opportunities for service staff at community colleges, as well as at other institutions of higher education. Professional development activities should acknowledge the importance of student expectations related to the service experience. Equally important, community college staff professional development programs should consider drawing the distinction between classroom experiences and those interactions with community college personnel that happen outside the classroom.