150 Campuses Win Recognition in Survey of Great Colleges to Work For

July 06, 2009

Some 150 colleges have been recognized for their workplace policies in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s second annual Great Colleges to Work For survey.

More than 300 four- and two-year colleges signed up for this year’s program, and 247 went through the entire survey process, nearly triple last year’s number of participants. The results, which were published today, are based on responses from nearly 41,000 administrators, faculty members, and staff members at those institutions.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For program recognizes colleges (grouped by enrollment size) for specific best practices and policies, including those affecting compensation and benefits, faculty-administration relations, and confidence in senior leadership. There are 26 recognition categories for four-year institutions, and 15 for community colleges.

Among four-year colleges, 122 institutions were recognized in at least one category. Among two-year institutions, 28 were recognized in at least one category.

Thirty-nine colleges were named to an Honor Roll, a new feature this year. The Honor Roll highlights the top 10 colleges in each size category (or the top three in the case of community colleges) based on the number of times they were recognized in the individual recognition categories. (A special report on the survey singles out four Honor Roll colleges and the best practices that earned them that distinction, as well as success stories on 12 other campuses.)

To participate in the program, institutions agreed to go through a free, two-part assessment process: a survey administered to a randomly selected group of 400 to 600 administrators and members of the faculty and professional-support staff, and an institutional audit that collected demographics and workplace policies and practices from each institution. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was the employee feedback collected from faculty and staff members.


An Upbeat Spirit


While the slumping national economy has made this among the most difficult years ever to work for a college, the survey results paint a picture of administrators, professors, and staff members who remain largely upbeat about their jobs and employers, at least for now.

College employees are never shy when it comes to complaining, whether about pay, parking, or politics, but it turns out that there is a lot they like about their jobs. When asked to respond to 60 statements about their institutions on a five-point scale, survey participants gave the highest marks to statements related to their understanding of how their jobs contributed to their colleges’ mission, the freedom and responsibility they were given, and the security and safety of their campuses.

For the second year in a row, however, they turned thumbs down to statements related to accountability, communication, and appreciation. Of all 60 survey statements, the one that received the lowest marks was: “Issues of low performance are addressed in my department.” Employees also responded negatively when asked whether recognition and rewards programs were meaningful, and whether employees were paid fairly for their work.

Over all, the responses were more positive this year than last: 71 percent of faculty members at public institutions expressed confidence in their senior leadership (compared with 56 percent last year); and 72 percent described relations with the administration as “healthy” (up from 61 percent). Nearly equal proportions of men (89 percent) and women (90 percent) said their institutions provided resources for work/life balance (up from 82 and 83 percent, respectively, last year); and both groups were similarly satisfied with their jobs on the whole (90 percent for men and 91 percent for women, both up slightly from last year).

Like last year, the percentages of positive responses were fairly high because the survey was not a random national sample, but was conducted only at institutions that felt confident enough in the quality of their workplaces to participate.

In some areas, overall satisfaction scores fell slightly from last year. Administrators gave lower marks to collaborative governance, and professors at both public and private institutions rated their teaching environment less favorably this year.

Both findings are perhaps a reflection of the tight economy, speculated Richard K. Boyer, a principal and managing partner of ModernThink LLC, a human-resources consulting company in Wilmington, Del., that managed the survey for The Chronicle.

“When money is tight," he said, "administrators make decisions without consulting the faculty, classes get bigger, fewer classrooms are constructed, and the remaining buildings get less upkeep.”