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Gallup and Purdue University Partner to Measure College Outcomes with Landmark Study

Gallup-Purdue Index to Measure What Matters Most in Higher Education—Graduates With Great Jobs and Great Lives

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Gallup has partnered with Purdue University to build and conduct the largest representative study of college graduates in U.S. history. The Gallup-Purdue Index will measure the most important outcomes of higher education—great careers and lives that matter—and provide higher education leaders with productive insights for meaningful performance improvements. The initiative aims to create a national movement toward a new set of measures, created by and for higher education, and to help foster a new level of accountability for the sector.

While there is almost universal agreement that the ultimate outcome of a college degree is the increased probability of getting a good job and having a better life, there is not a tool to measure these critical outcomes. Higher education currently suffers from skyrocketing tuition costs, student loan debt, and a misalignment between degrees conferred and jobs available. President Barack Obama and the Department of Education have called for new ways to measure higher education outcomes and increase accountability and transparency. Gallup and Purdue are collaborating to go beyond “classic economic” measures, which provide limited value to education leaders, and use “behavioral economic” measures validated by Gallup’s worldwide research on workplace engagement and well-being. The Gallup-Purdue Index will provide the first measure that evaluates the long-term success of graduates in their pursuit of “great jobs” and “great lives.”

Gallup-Purdue Index: Great Jobs, Great Lives
Lumina President Jamie Merisotis

“Decades of Gallup research have helped measure and quantify whether a person has a great job and a great life,” said Brandon Busteed, Executive Director, Gallup Education. “Right now, there isn’t a college or university in the country that can tell—from a research-based perspective—to what degree their graduates have great jobs and great lives. Together with Purdue, and soon other leading higher ed institutions, Gallup is excited to get at what really matters.”

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The Gallup-Purdue Index provides a definitive measure of how college graduates are doing on five key dimensions of well-being: purpose, social, physical, financial, and community. It will also measure their workplace engagement including things such as whether they like what they do, do what they’re best at, and have someone who cares about their development. In addition to the validated constructs Gallup has used to determine workplace engagement and well-being, Gallup will measure items that test the “customer” engagement of alumni, including their emotional attachment to their educational experience. The study will also include many crucial demographic items such as race, gender, household income, profession, student loan debt, whether respondents have started or plan to start a business, and whether they were first-generation college students, among other items.

Purdue will be the first university to contract for a simultaneous sampling of its own graduates, to determine how they are faring in life and at work compared to these national norms.

Gallup-Purdue Index: Great Jobs, Great Lives
Clifton, Merisotis, Daniels

Gallup will invite other institutions of higher education to join this research collaborative to measure these outcomes among their students and alumni starting this academic year, and will work with them to drive continual process improvement throughout the student experience. The Gallup-Purdue Index will serve as a powerful national benchmarking tool—not a ranking—created by higher education for higher education. The findings of the inaugural Index will be available in early spring of 2014 with public findings reported on annually.

“As it finally did in K-12, an accountability era has begun for higher education,” said Mitch Daniels, President, Purdue University. “Students and their parents deserve to know with confidence whether a college they are considering has a trustworthy track record of developing successful, engaged, and fulfilled graduates. Businesses and other employers are eager for better tools that tell them at which schools their recruiting is most likely to yield top new associates. The Gallup-Purdue Index aims to help answer these two critical and appropriate sets of questions.”

Gallup-Purdue Index: Great Jobs, Great Lives
Jamie Merisotis

As part of Gallup’s ongoing mission to “help people be heard,” survey respondents will be recruited throughout the year through random digit dialing and agree to provide an email address and complete a Web-based survey. This will enable Gallup to collect a fresh, representative population of approximately 30,000 college graduates that can be surveyed via Web annually. Throughout the year, Gallup will report findings by various institution types, including: Carnegie Classifications such as four-year public vs. four-year private; by state such as Indiana state college and university graduates compared with Illinois state college and university graduates; and by athletic conference such as Big 10 vs. Big 12.

The Gallup-Purdue Index is made possible in part by Lumina Foundation’s $2 million grant to Purdue University.

Better and more explicit information about the outcomes of higher education is essential.

“In the national drive to increase college attainment and meet the growing need for talent, better and more explicit information about the outcomes of higher education is essential,” said Jamie Merisotis, President and CEO of Lumina Foundation. “This index will do just that by providing powerful new evidence to measure whether colleges and universities deliver on the improved life and job outcomes that Americans expect of them.”

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Posted Oct 8, 2014