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A New Pursuit-of-Happiness Index For College Grads

What if we judged colleges by how engaged, successful, and purposeful their graduates are?

A New Pursuit-of-Happiness Index For College Grads
[Image: Flickr user schwglr]

Student debt is at a new all-time high of $29,400 per graduate. President Obama wants colleges to be held accountable for the net value of their degrees, but the higher education leadership is balking at being held to a one-dimensional measure of success. You are more than your salary, after all.

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Today, Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana announced it has partnered with Gallup to survey up to 30,000 college graduates, not just on employment, debt, and income, but on multiple dimensions of happiness.

“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,” said Mitch Daniels, Purdue’s president. “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. The Gallup-Purdue Index aims to help answer these two critical and appropriate sets of questions.”

The Gallup survey, based on years of work investigating employee engagement, will generate an index of college graduates measuring five key dimensions of well-being–purpose, social, physical, financial, and community–plus workplace engagement, such as whether they like what they do and do what they’re best at.

Higher education is known for its lofty mission statements upholding the importance of a life having meaning and dedication to the greater good. This is one of the first attempts to find out systematically which universities are actually turning out graduates who uphold these ideas. It’s part of a broader trend in which cities, countries, and companies are trying to gather more multidimensional data on the well-being of their citizens and employees.

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.

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