Does a College Degree Grant a Better Life?

Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and research giant Gallup are conducting an enormous representative study of U.S. college graduates to determine if college degrees really lead to better careers and more satisfying lives.
Does a College Degree Grant a Better Life?

The Gallup-Purdue Index will measure how college graduates are doing on five dimensions of well-being: purpose, social engagement, physical health, financial health, and community connections. It also will measure their workplace engagement in aspects such as whether they like what they do, are doing what they’re best at, and are working with someone who cares about their development.

In addition to including standard demographic markers such as race, gender, and household income, the study will ask if respondents have student loan debt, if they have started or plan to start a business, and if they were first-generation college students.

Purdue will be the first university whose graduates will be surveyed; later Gallup will invite other institutions to join the research effort. The findings of the inaugural index will be available in spring 2014, and public findings will be reported annually on

Organizers believe that the new index will hold higher education accountable for delivering on its promise of improving graduates’ lives. “An accountability era has begun for higher education,” says Mitch Daniels, president of 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.”

Thirty thousand survey respondents will be recruited throughout the year through random digit dialing; they will provide an email address and complete a web-based survey. Gallup will report findings by state, athletic conference, and Carnegie classifications.

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