Tai Nicolopoulos
Senior Marketing Manager

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a quick and effective way to predict an individual student’s likelihood of persisting? Data collected by InsideTrack suggest that Net Promoter® surveys, a commonly used measure of student satisfaction, might serve as an effective early warning system to identify students at greater risk of dropping out.

InsideTrack Coaches routinely take time during their one-on-one coaching sessions to assess levels of student of engagement and satisfaction. In many cases, these assessments involve a NetPromoter survey, where students rate, on a scale of zero to 10, how likely they are to recommend the university to a friend or colleague. These ratings are aggregated to produce a NetPromoter Score (see description below) the university can use to benchmark and track overall student satisfaction. Now, InsideTrack is looking at the relationship between individual students’ NetPromoter ratings and their likelihood of persisting into subsequent terms, and finding some interesting correlations.

Understanding the NetPromoter® rating and scoring systems 

For readers unfamiliar with NetPromoter® Scores (NPS), it may be helpful to pause here for a brief explanation provided by SatMetrix, one of the principal organizations behind the concept.

NPS is based on the fundamental perspective that every company’s customers can be divided into three categories: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors. By asking one simple question—How likely is it that you would recommend [Company X] to a friend or colleague?—you can track these groups and get a clear measure of your company’s performance through its customers’ eyes. Customers respond on a 0-to-10 point rating scale and are categorized as follows:

  • Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth.
  • Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.
  • Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.

To calculate your company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), take the percentage of customers who are Promoters and subtract the percentage who are Detractors.

NetPromoter scale


InsideTrack cross-referenced the Net Promoter ratings provided at the midpoint of the first term by 1,763 students receiving coaching at three for-profit universities with their persistence in subsequent terms. We discovered that students who were “detractors” (rating of 0-6) were twice as likely to drop out during the following two terms than were “promoters” (rating of 9-10). Identifying these students early enables proactive intervention.

Non-returns by NetPromoter ratingInitial student satisfaction levels also appeared to impact students’ long-term connection to the university. “Promoters” (rating of 9-10) were more likely than “detractors” (rating of 0-6) to resume after stopping out for one term, with 61.8% of those “promoters” who dropped in their second term returning in their third term, versus only 18.8% of those “detractors” who dropped in their second term returning for their third term.
Students who did not return for Term Two, but resumed in Term Three

Ultimately, surveying students about their satisfaction early and often is only valuable if the university takes action on the results. One InsideTrack partner university has advisors reach out to every student “detractor” and has leveraged the interactions to improve retention, student satisfaction and operational effectiveness.

Many universities have examined the connection between Net Promoter Scores (university-wide student satisfaction levels) and university-wide retention. Most have found no correlation. However, we are not aware of any other studies conducted on the correlation between an individual student’s Net Promoter rating and their persistence.

We welcome your insights and references as we continue to explore this important topic.