As student debts rise and colleges come under more scrutiny, more people are beginning to ask how much a college degree is really worth. This week, the Gallup polling firm announced that it is going to find out. In a new partnership with Purdue University, Gallup will be spending the next five years surveying hundreds of thousands of college graduates to paint a more accurate picture of where these students end up and what sort of impact their degree has on their life. As the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, this will go far beyond more recent attempts to put a value of a degree by simply looking at post-college earnings:
The sample of respondents will proportionately match the graduation patterns in the general population. For example, if enrollment at four-year public colleges is 60 percent of students at all four-year colleges, 60 percent of the respondents will have graduated from four-year public institutions.Gallup will then cut up the data to, for example, find out how graduates of public colleges fared against those of private or for-profit colleges, or how blacks perceive their careers and lives versus whites or Hispanics, or how results from one region of the country measure up to another. Gallup might be able compare the Big Ten, Pac-12, and Southeastern Conferences in terms of student outcomes—bringing a new level of competition to those colleges.
Even a well-organized metric is never going to be able to put an exact ranking of each degree that holds true for every individual, but given the high price of college and the key role of a degree in landing a good job, a better system of ranking their value is sorely needed, both to help students make better choices and to hold schools accountable for the quality of their products. This is the best attempt we’ve seen to create such a system. Go Gallup!