Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Higher Education Administration PhD

First Advisor

Jay Brand

Second Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Third Advisor

Duane Covrig

Abstract

Problem

Universities in the United States face financial constraints, intense competition for students, declining student enrollment, and constant student attrition. However, an increasing number of international students seek higher education abroad, especially in the U.S. Providing quality services to these international students might help institutions attract and retain more of them. Unfortunately, little empirical research has been done on international students’ perceptions of service quality, especially of non-academic services. This study fills that gap by using a modified SERVPERF questionnaire to investigate international students perceived service quality and satisfaction at eight universities in Indiana and Michigan.

Method

The purpose of the study was to examine perceptions of service quality of nonacademic services and satisfaction among international students at universities in Indiana and Michigan. The study also investigated the relationship between perceived service quality and satisfaction. This was an important area of research given the increased demand and competition of international students, their impact on regional and national economics, and their cross-cultural influence on social and national relations. This quantitative, descriptive, correlational research used an online survey to collect responses to a SERVPERF questionnaire and eight demographic variables. Multiple regression analysis was used to examine the relationship between perceived overall service quality and satisfaction. Descriptive statistics (means and standard deviations) were examined to ascertain ratings of service performance and satisfaction. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to determine international students’ perceived service quality and satisfaction on the basis of the demographic variables gender, geographical region of origin, age, the level in the current degree program, duration of stay at the university, race/ethnicity, religion, and type of university.

Results

Based on the research design, data were collected from 376 international students from 77 different countries, attending eight public or private universities in Indiana and Michigan. Of the respondents, 196 were male and 175 were female. The majority of the respondents (185) were aged between 18-24 years. Those who attended private universities numbered 61.7% (232) while 38.3% (144) attended public universities. A majority of the participants, 55.1% (207), were enrolled in graduate school, and 44.2% (164) in undergraduate programs. Five respondents declined to respond to the question. Fifty-two percent had been at the current university for a duration of over a year while 38.6% had been at the university for a period of less than one year, but more than six months. 9.6% did not indicate the duration of their stay at the current university. The bulk of the participants, 165 (43.9%), were Asian. The remaining sample was made up of 72 (19.1%) Whites or Caucasians, 62 (16.5%) Blacks or African Americans, 33 (8.8%) Hispanics, and 43 (11.4%) identified as Other. A majority, 227 (60.4%), were Christian, with 51 (13.6%) Agnostic/Atheists, 43 (11.4%) Muslims, 32 (8.5%) Hindus, and 17 (4.5%) Buddhists. The study found that, in general, international students value the nonacademic services provided by their respective institutions; specifically, the components of reliability, empathy, and tangibles within perceptions of the quality of nonacademic services predicted overall student satisfaction. Respondents in general gave high ratings for service quality across all of the nonacademic service departments, meaning they have high positive perceptions of service quality. On a Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), the results show that 81.2% of the respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that the departments provided high quality service with a mean ranging from M = 3.56 to M = 4.12. Of the selected departments, international student services led with M = 4.10, SD = 0.77, followed by academic records M = 3.87, SD = 0.69, admissions M = 3.84, SD = 0.66, and housing M = 3.65, SD = 0.75. Respondents rated overall satisfaction at M = 3.87. This means that international students agreed they were satisfied with the quality of services provided by universities in Indiana and Michigan. Multiple regression analysis conducted for Research Question 3 in the Step 3 model demonstrated that the predictor variables reliability, empathy, and tangibility had positive significant weights, indicating international students’ satisfaction with these dimensions of service quality. The model accounted for 32.1% of variance of international students’ satisfaction. The remaining 67.9% of variance in student satisfaction was thus due to other factors not represented in this model. The results suggest that a higher overall satisfaction score may be explained by higher scores in reliability and empathy but lower scores in tangibility, indicating that international students were satisfied with nonacademic departments’ ability to perform the services as per their promise, correctly and consistently (reliability). In other words, international students are more satisfied if the perceived reliability of service quality is high. Respondents were also satisfied with the personal caring attitude of providing individualized attention (empathy). The positive correlation between empathy and satisfaction showed that international students were satisfied with the nonacademic service department personnel’s caring attitude and individual attention. The study demonstrated that as long as there was high reliability and empathy, respondents were less concerned about the appearance and neatness of physical facilities, equipment, and personnel (tangibility). Multivariate analysis of variance indicated that the demographic variables race/ethnicity, religion, geographical region of origin, level in degree program, type of university, gender, and duration of stay at a university all had statistically significant differences in service perceptions for different nonacademic service departments. In admissions, the study found that respondents who had stayed at the same university for a period of three to four years and longer, had a less positive perception of service quality. Additionally, respondents of Hispanic descent had more positive perceptions of service reliability. In housing, respondents from Asia had a more positive perception of service reliability and differed from respondents from Europe and North America (excluding the U.S.). Respondents from North America (excluding the U.S.) had more positive perceptions of service reliability and in this regard were different from South Americans and Europeans. Respondents from Asia had more positive perceptions of service tangibility and differed from Europeans and South Americans. Respondents from North America (excluding the U.S.) had more positive perceptions of service tangibility and differed from Europeans. In academic records, male and female respondents had a positive perception of services, and those respondents who had stayed at the current university for a period of 7 to 9 years had less positive perceptions of service quality, and therefore, were less satisfied.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Respondents were very satisfied with the service quality of nonacademic departments in their Indiana and Michigan universities. This perception of higher service quality might be a function of a broader U.S. cultural emphasis on customer service quality. However, in general other researchers have found similar results (Hassan & Elhoseny, 2010; Hasan, Ilias, Rahman, & Razak, 2008; Nadiri, Kandampully and Hussain, 2009; Kerlin, 2000; Negricea, Edu, & Avram, 2014; Ruby, 1998; Sultan & Wong, 2012). In the present study, these positive results could also suggest a possible regional sensitivity to and welcoming culture for international students in Indiana and Michigan. Several institutions in this study are known to attract international applications. The service performance dimensions of reliability, tangibility and empathy explained a significant percentage of the relationship between satisfaction and service quality. Based on these findings, a few recommendations for universities may be offered. There is need for universities to focus on continuously improving service quality. This will help to identify and eliminate any student satisfaction barriers, and to continuously deliver high quality service. Nonacademic service departments should pay special attention to hours of service. The results suggest that the current hours of service are not convenient for students. Perhaps the relevant departments can strategize more creative ways of delivering their service to students. In this regard, one example might involve inviting online service portals that students could use to schedule service appointments. Another possibility would be to conduct more training for nonacademic services staff on problem solving skills so that they can demonstrate effectiveness in general when handling international students’ issues or problems. With the changing landscape in communication, there is need for nonacademic departments to find strategic ways of improving communication for timely feedback to students’ inquiries or concerns. Additionally, there is need for universities to introduce a reward and appreciation system to recognize both individuals and departments that provide outstanding quality service to its customers. This has the element of influencing the attention staff and departments pay to their customers, and drive their focus to the delivery of higher level of service quality.

Subject Area

Students--Services for--Indiana; Students--Services for--Michigan; Universities and colleges--Indiana; Universities and colleges--Michigan

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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