In the U.S., 38% of recent college graduates -- those who graduated from 2006 to 2015 -- strongly agree that college was worth the cost. However, the odds that recent graduates strongly agree are at least 1.5 times higher if they had an internship related to their studies, were extremely active in extracurricular activities or had a project that took a semester or more to complete.
These findings are from the Gallup-Purdue Index 2015 Report, which Gallup released Tuesday. This study is a follow-up to the inaugural report published in 2014. Both reports are based on a nationally representative study of U.S. college graduates with a bachelor's degree or higher who have Internet access. The current report provides insights for universities, educators, employers and students on the factors that contribute to positive outcomes for graduates: having a great job and a great life.
This year's report features expanded sections on student loan debt, the role of personality on positive college experiences and the link between having key college experiences and perceptions that college was worth the cost.
Key findings from the report include:
- Graduates' views of whether their undergraduate education was worth the cost vary only slightly between private nonprofit universities and public universities.
- Universities' U.S. News & World Report rankings only loosely relate to perceptions among recent graduates that their education was worth the cost.
- Almost two-thirds of recent college graduates had to take out student loans, with a median debt burden of $30,000 among those who took out loans.
- Nearly half of recent graduates who incurred any amount of student loan debt have postponed further training or postgraduate education because of their student loans. A third or more have delayed purchasing a house or a car because of their debt, and nearly one in five have put off starting their own business. Each of these figures rises significantly among those with a debt burden of greater than $25,000 during their undergraduate education.
- The current Gallup-Purdue Index results reaffirm the importance of supportive relationships between undergraduates and professors and other mentors.
- Recent graduates who strongly agree with any of the three items measuring supportive relationships with professors or mentors are almost twice as likely to strongly agree that their education was worth the cost. These three items were having professors who cared about them as a person, having a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams, or having at least one professor who made them excited about learning. These relationships hold even when controlling for personality characteristics and other variables such as student loan debt and employment status that could also be related to graduates' perceptions that college was worth it.
For more findings, download the full report.