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10 Discoveries About U.S. College Grads

Author: Sean Seymour & Alyssa Brown
Date: January 27, 2015
Gallup International

GALLUP INTERNATIONAL—Gallup collaborated with Purdue University and Lumina Foundation to conduct a nationally representative study of U.S. college graduates with Internet access. Based on interviews with more than 30,000 graduates in early 2014, the Gallup-Purdue Index measures the degree to which graduates have "great jobs," through their engagement at work and if they are leading "great lives" by thriving in their overall well-being.

The landmark study's initial findings were released in May 2014 in the Gallup-Purdue Index Inaugural National Report and Gallup continued to publish additional discoveries throughout the year. Here are 10 of the most important findings from the Gallup-Purdue Index in 2014:
  1. College rankings not linked to graduates' well-being and engagement at work: As many graduates from the Top 100 U.S. News & World Report schools are engaged in their work and are thriving in all elements of well-being as graduates from other institutions.
  2. Key outcomes do not differ for private vs. public college graduates: Graduates of public versus not-for-profit private colleges do not differ in terms of employee engagement or well-being, but there are substantial differences between graduates of for-profit institutions and the rest. Graduates of for-profit institutions experience lower levels of employee engagement and well-being.
  3. Student debt linked to worse health and less wealth: An analysis of Americans who graduated college since 1990 shows that graduates who took on $50,000 or more in student loan debt, are less likely than their fellow graduates who did not borrow for college to be thriving in four of five elements of well-being: purpose, financial, community and physical.
  4. Useful internships improve grads' chances of full-time work: Work and internship opportunities in college that allow students to apply what they learn improve the chances that college graduates will land work after college. Seventy-one percent of the most recent graduates who strongly agreed they had these types of jobs or internship opportunities as undergrads are working full time now for an employer, compared with 56% of those who strongly disagreed.
  5. Black college grads more likely to graduate with debt: Half of 2000-2014 black college graduates in the U.S. report graduating with more than $25,000 in undergraduate student loan debt. By comparison, 34% of recent white graduates report similar levels of debt, revealing a large borrowing gap between the races.
  6. Graduating college later in life doesn't hamper income: Despite delaying their college education, nontraditional college graduates -- defined as those who earn their degree at age 25 or older -- have personal incomes later in life that are similar to those of traditional graduates, or those who earn their degree before age 25.
  7. Fraternity and sorority membership linked to higher well-being for college grads: The 16% of college graduates who were members of sorority or fraternities are more likely to be "thriving" in their well-being and engaged at work than college graduates who were not members of these organizations.
  8. U.S. business majors least likely to get support in college: With about half (51%) of business majors saying they had a college professor who made them excited about learning, business students are the least likely of all college majors to report having a motivating professor. Seven in 10 arts and humanities majors say they had such a professor, and strong majorities of social sciences/education graduates (66%) and sciences/engineering graduates (58%) say they had this important experience.
  9. Emotionally attached alumni have higher well-being: Twenty-nine percent of graduates who are attached to their alma mater are thriving in well-being, versus 4% who are actively unattached to their colleges.
  10. SEC alumni feel stronger school ties than other grads: Nearly three in 10 graduates of Southeastern Conference universities still feel a strong emotional connection to their alma maters. In fact, alumni attachment among graduates of the 14 universities currently in the SEC is nearly twice as high as that of graduates of other four-year colleges and universities nationwide (18%).
Gallup is currently conducting interviews for the second iteration of the Gallup-Purdue Index. These additional data will provide higher education leaders with even more powerful insights to drive meaningful improvements in performance.

To be among the first to learn about breakthrough discoveries from the Gallup-Purdue Index in 2015, sign up for Gallup News alerts.

*Courtesy Gallup International: http://go.ato.org/1D3Bzn1
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