A Message from President Daniels on the Gallup-Purdue Index

December 17, 2013

To the Purdue campus community,

Today (Dec. 17), Purdue is announcing a research collaboration with Gallup, with support from the Lumina Foundation, in which we will work together to measure, for the first time, the overall success at work and in life of America's college graduates and Purdue graduates specifically.

As the world begins to demand more accountability in higher education, we will lead the way with the Gallup-Purdue Index -- the largest representative study of college graduates in U.S. history. The Gallup-Purdue Index will measure the most important outcomes of higher education -- those nonmaterial dimensions that are predictors of workplace performance and success in life.

Purdue researchers have been involved in discussions on this effort and will continue to work with experts from Gallup and other institutions to learn from the voluminous data to be generated so that refinement of the methodology can continue for future years.

As I see it, this initiative is a matter of responsibility, necessity and opportunity.

We have a responsibility to our students and their families to ensure that we are providing a collegiate experience that prepares them to be contributing and productive citizens in their workplaces and their communities. This is a necessity because the world -- potential students, employers, taxpayers and others -- is demanding evidentiary proof that today's very expensive college costs are worth the price. And, for us at least, it is an opportunity because we think Boilermakers will compare well when the world knows with certainty the kind of education and preparation necessary for individuals to become successful, contributing members of society.

It is only recently that a higher education system unanimously judged the world's best has been challenged with unprecedented questions: Are too many young people going to college? Are they learning anything meaningful while they are there? Can whatever they are learning possibly be worth the escalating costs they are being charged, or the soaring debt levels they are taking on to pay those costs?

There is currently no adequate tool to help either employers or college-bound students judge the relative value of any given institution. We know how quickly and how many students graduate, we know their GPA, and we know whether they have a job or are pursuing additional education six months after graduation. Beyond that? Almost nothing. We need to know what happens next. Are our graduates leading fulfilling lives? Are they high performers and satisfied workers? Are they likely to achieve further success? Are they engaged with their communities? Are they leaders?

Over the next few months, the first annual national benchmark survey will be conducted of approximately 30,000 college graduates. Purdue will be the first school to contract for a simultaneous sampling of its own graduates, to determine how they compare to national norms. We believe Boilermakers will compare excellently to their peers, but if we are surprised by negative findings, that will serve to tell us how and by how much we need to improve.

This new tool will not fill the entire higher education accountability gap. A school can ensure generally successful graduates just by restricting admission to the very brightest students. It will be equally important for colleges to measure and report the extent to which students are learning and growing during their higher education years, whatever level of ability, content knowledge, and critical thinking skills they arrived with. But the ways to measure that will continue to be developed and discussed among faculty researchers at Purdue and across the country.

The Gallup-Purdue Index is not a new ranking or rating system. It is, in fact, a way that we, as an institution, can look at the outcomes, not only graduation or GPA, but real success in life, and know, with certainty, that we are doing what is right for our students and their futures.


Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. 

Gallup and Purdue University partner to measure college outcomes with landmark study