The College Union Experience

Student unions occupy a unique position in higher education. They are often designed to be a central hub for campus activities, services, and student life in general. While they aim to maintain a campus-wide sense of community, they must also meet the needs of a diverse array of students. As students change, college unions must strive to keep pace with evolving tastes and needs. As such, data highlighting not only how and why students are using college unions but also the perceptions of their experience are vital to improving college unions. This research note details findings from the ACUI/Benchworks College Union/Student Center Assessment of over 16,000 students from 35 colleges and universities in the United States. In particular, this research note explores the college union experience, including information about who uses college union facilities and for what, satisfaction with various aspects of college unions, and concepts that relate to overall measures of college union effectiveness.

Key Points:

  • College union visitors skewed undergraduate, female, full-time enrolled, and members of organizations
  • The most popular reasons for
    visiting college unions were to
    eat, study and meet others
  • The college union aspects visitors were most satisfied with related to union staff, bookstore staff, and union cleanliness
  • The concepts with the strongest relationships to overall program effectiveness were to degree to which the union contributed to key learning outcomes, provided entertainment, and had quality staff

Key Questions:

1. Who visits college unions?
2. When and why do students visit college unions?
3. How satisfied are visitors with various aspects of college unions?
4. What concepts relate to high perceptions of college union effectiveness?