GPI finds ‘Big Six’ experiences linked to on-time graduation

April 8, 2015  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Gallup-Purdue released findings on Wednesday (April 8) showing that six factors directly correlate with graduating on time – and, more likely, on budget.

Calling them the “Big Six,” these experiences significantly increase the odds of college students graduating in four years and feeling that their alma mater prepared them well for life after college. However, only 3 percent of students report having all of these six experiences.

The inaugural Gallup-Purdue Index found that it is not where you go to college but how you experience it that matters most. This new analysis also shows that these “Big Six” experiences directly correlate to a student’s ability to graduate in four years, which can significantly reduce the cost of college:

* Having at least one professor who made them excited about learning

* Feeling professors cared about them as a person

* Having a mentor who encouraged them to pursue goals and dreams

* Working on a project that took a semester or more to complete

* Having an internship or job that allowed them to apply what they were learning in the classroom

* Being extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations during college

“Once again, we are reminded that it’s not where you go to college but how you go to college,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels.

The Gallup-Purdue Index found that 63 percent of students reported having at least one professor who made learning exciting. And about a third, or less, of the students reported they experienced the other five items.

Also, the higher number of these experiences that college students had, the more likely they felt their college prepared them well for life after college. For example, of the alumni who reported three of the six experiences, only 43 percent were likely to say their college prepared them well for life after college, compared to 82 percent of those who strongly agreed they had all six positive experiences.

Purdue also is focusing on offering more three-year degrees and encouraging more of its programs to be offered year-round so students can graduate on time, which will lead to increasing affordability and lowering debt.

The Gallup-Purdue index was made possible through a grant from the Lumina Foundation to Purdue.

"Knowing that on-time graduation rates are connected to six specific experiences, universities can focus on improving the student experience," said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation. "Higher education institutions have a unique opportunity in their hands to positively influence the lives and careers of their future graduates while preparing them for the 21st century workforce."

The study, which includes approximately 30,000 college graduates, has found to date that graduates who have achieved great jobs and great lives were more likely to be personally engaged with a faculty member, have participated in an internship, been involved in extracurricular activities and have graduated with manageable amounts of student debt. These findings held true regardless of the type of public or private non-profit, four-year institution, no matter whether highly or much less selective.

About Gallup-Purdue Index:

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 also measures 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. The study is representative of college graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher with access to the Internet and is conducted by Web.

About Purdue University:

A top public research institution, Purdue strives to offer higher education at its highest proven value. Committed to affordability, the university has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels. Committed to student success, Purdue is changing the way classes are taught with greater focus on faculty-student interaction and creative use of technology. Committed to world-changing research, Purdue has smoothed the pathways for faculty and student innovators who seek to make a global impact. Founded in 1869 in West Lafayette, Indiana, the university proudly serves its state as well as the nation and the world. Academically, Purdue's role as a major research institution is supported by top-ranking disciplines in pharmacy, business, engineering, and agriculture. More than 39,000 students are enrolled here. All 50 states and 130 countries are represented.

Sources:  Mitch Daniels,

Jamie Merisotis,

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