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A multi-ethnic group of students sit at a table in a common space at college

Students who rate their education quality as high are more likely to say they feel cared for by professors and that they belong at their institution.

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Three in four students enrolled in a postsecondary program—including a certificate, certification, associate or bachelor’s degree—say the quality of their education is excellent (24 percent) or very good (50 percent), according to new data from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation. Students are more likely to rate their program higher if it is offered in-person and if they feel they belong at their institution.

The Gallup State of Higher Education Report investigates the reasons adults in the U.S. enroll and retain in college. In the most recent report, published May 8, researchers found learners who considered their experience to be good quality also felt supported and cared for by faculty members.

The study adds to a growing body of research around the importance of faculty member engagement in student success through respectful and caring practices.


The Gallup State of Higher Education survey includes responses from over 14,000 adults in the U.S., aged 18 to 59 who do not have a college degree. Around 6,000 respondents were currently enrolled students, 5,000 were stopped-out adults and 3,000 had never enrolled in any type of education after high school.

The survey was conducted online and fielded during fall 2023.

Quality of education: Overall, a majority of those enrolled in a postsecondary program rate their program as excellent or very good, but this number grows to 79 percent among students pursuing a certificate and 78 percent among those in a bachelor’s degree program.

Students learning completely in-person are most likely to rank their educational quality as high (81 percent), and those learning mostly in-person have similarly high regard (78 percent) for the program quality.

Online learning received lower marks, with mostly online (64 percent) participants and hybrid learners (67 percent) least satisfied with their learning. While online and remote learning opportunities provide flexibility for different types of learners—including those who are caretakers or working full-timeintentional design principles can help ensure student success and engagement in the various modalities.

Feelings of belonging: Six in 10 students say that faculty and instructors care about them as a person and they have at least one mentor who encourages them to pursue their goals.

Male students (78 percent) and white students (76 percent) were most likely to feel cared for by faculty members, compared to 69 percent of women, 68 percent of Black adults, 70 percent of Hispanic adults and 71 percent of Asian adults.

Students belonging to racial minorities were less likely to say they have a mentor, as well. A recent study from the Partnership for College Completion found mentorship is a critical component of retention and students appreciate when their advisers share their identities.

One in six students say they feel disrespected, discriminated against or unsafe at their institution at least occasionally. The survey did not differentiate between interactions with fellow students, staff, faculty or other campus community members in its analysis.

Traditional-aged students (18 to 25) are most likely to report disrespect (20 percent) and feeling unsafe physically (19 percent) or psychologically (19 percent), compared to older adults. Black students and male students were most likely to say they feel discriminated against (21 percent among both groups).

So what: Among currently enrolled adults, those who rated their educational quality as high were more likely to feel cared for by their professors (40 percent strongly agreed), feel they are treated with respect by faculty (50 percent) and feel like they belong (4 percent).

Students often turn to their faculty members for advice and support outside of academics, including career advice and mental health support, so positive student-faculty relationships are a critical piece of student success.

Research has pointed to the value of faculty members’ interactions with students to promote academic achievement through positive communication, disclosure of their identities and caring practices, highlighting the impact of an individual professor in student retention and engagement.

Seeking stories from campus leaders, faculty members and staff for our Student Success newsletter. Share here.

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