For years, the value of a college degree has been determined by the outcomes easiest to measure: job and graduate school placement rates and alumni salaries. While these metrics have some merit, they offer a somewhat narrow view of success. They don’t reflect the missions of higher education institutions—or the myriad reasons students go to college.
Responding to the call for increased accountability among colleges and universities, Gallup and Purdue University focused on outcomes that reflect graduates’ essential aspirations. Together, we created an index that examines the long-term success of graduates as they pursue good jobs and better lives.
The inaugural administration of the Gallup-Purdue Index—informed by interviews with more than 30,000 graduates—yields important insights. We considered three broad markers to determine if college graduates felt they had great jobs and great lives.
Thirty-nine percent of college graduates are engaged at work.
Fifty-four percent are thriving in purpose well-being; 49% are thriving in social well-being, 47% in community well-being, 42% in financial well-being, and 35% in physical well-being.
Attachment to Alma Mater
Graduates who felt “supported” during their time in college are six times more likely to be emotionally attached to their alma maters.
The report’s findings suggest that institutional reputation and other traditional measures of college value are insufficient. Instead, we must consider what students do in college and how they experience it. These elements, more than any others, have a profound relationship to a person’s life and career.
Students and their families expect college to be a transformative experience, but that happens far too infrequently. It should be a national imperative to change this.
It’s time for a national dialogue on improving the college experience. That discussion should focus on ways to give students more emotional support, more opportunities for deep learning, and more real-life applications of classroom learning.