College and university responsiveness to students -as -customers: The reorganization of service delivery in the enrollment service arena

Jacquelyn Lisa Nealon, University of Pennsylvania


Higher education has become a marketplace, driven by factors such as changing demographics, the advent of technology, escalating costs of a college education for both institutions and students, shrinking governmental subsidies, and a massive influx of students seeking a college education in order to positively impact lifetime earning potential. Colleges and universities are engaged in a competition for their share of the education market; competing for students not only in terms of academic programs, prestige, and reputation, but also on the quality of student service delivery and value of student experiences outside of the classroom. Students have increasingly come to view themselves as both customers and active learners and look closely at an institution's approach to service delivery as a distinguishing factor among colleges. This has dramatically impacted the nature of service delivery in the enrollment services arena: namely, the offices of admissions, financial aid, bursar, and the registrar. There is growing tension between the fragmented, functionally-based departmental models of service delivery, with narrowly focused, highly specialized staff members, and the emergence of cross-functional, technology-driven service models, with cross-trained and relationship-oriented personnel. The selection of a service delivery model, combined with a chosen approach to student-centered service may impact recruitment, retention, staffing, budget, and organizational culture within institutions of higher education. A comprehensive review of literature within and outside of higher education, helped to frame the proposed study and ensure a need for, and value of, the intended research in higher educational literature. By engaging a qualitative, multiple case study approach, the researcher set out to identify how institutions of higher education have responded to their students as customers in the enrollment services arena. Three distinctly different colleges, in terms of enrollment, cost, and mission, were selected for the study; each sharing a commitment toward improving student service delivery in enrollment services, but each hovering at a different stage in the evolution of its service transformation. The researcher intended to demonstrate the various ways that colleges and universities choose to respond to their students as customers, each with its own positive, negative, and unintended consequences.

Subject Area

Higher education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Nealon, Jacquelyn Lisa, "College and university responsiveness to students -as -customers: The reorganization of service delivery in the enrollment service arena" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3168038.