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All Eyes on Outcomes

In response to the rising tide of criticism around the value of higher education for Americans, Gallup and Purdue University teamed up to combat the negative perceptions.

Backed by a $2 million grant from the Lumina Foundation, the Gallup-Purdue Index, unveiled this week, aims to measure the success of graduates from higher education institutions on a national level and to emphasize accountability across the industry.

“This is going to be an unprecedented treasure trove of data about what leads to successful work and successful lives, and which categories of institutions seem to produce the most successful graduates,” Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University, told the Journal & Courier (Lafayette, IN). “It’ll be a really deep vein of new learning.”

The project consists of an annual survey of 30,000 graduates and is expected to set a standard benchmark for other postsecondary institutions to compare their alumni success to the national index.

Expected to be available for public consumption in the spring of 2014, the index is not intended to rank colleges, but will allow the public to compare graduates’ success from state to state.

However, despite the initiative’s attempt to showcase the value of a higher education credential, there are a number of skeptics who do support the proposed index.

“Ultimately, the purpose of a college education is not to get you a job and make you money,” Anthony Carnevale, director and research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, told Inside Higher Ed. “The purpose is to allow you to live more fully.”

In response, Gallup pointed out that the Index is not intended to completely eradicate the gap in accountability at colleges and universities. It was further explained that institutions will retain the responsibility to measure learning and academic outcomes while students are still enrolled.

Jamie Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of the Lumina Foundation, said providing more information about graduate outcomes after higher education is crucial to meeting the needs of today’s employers.

“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,” Merisotis told Journal & Courier. “The Gallup-Purdue Index aims to help answer these two critical and appropriate sets of questions.”

The survey includes various indicators that measure graduate success such as career and life satisfaction.

“What we’re measuring is really to what degree these graduates have great jobs and great lives,” Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, told the Journal & Courier. “We hope this is something that the higher education sector is really excited about. It sends a clear message that this is about higher ed, for higher ed, by higher ed.”