Six Sigma for College

Industrial Engineer

July 23, 2014

Gallup findings could lead to era of continuous improvement in higher education

Higher education researchers spend a lot of time studying everything in the universe.

But when it comes to measuring the educational experience they provide, these institutions fall short, according to Gallup Business Journal. So the Gallup-Purdue Index studied more than 30,000 college graduates to figure out what elements of college were associated with long-term measures of success.

The study identified six elements, three that pertain to feeling supported and three that apply to experiential and deep learning. According to Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, all six can be measured.

As the old saying goes, things that can be measured can be managed and changed, opening a path to continuous improvement for higher education, or, as Busteed wrote, "its equivalent of Six Sigma." This could improve the campus experience and enrich students' lives after graduation.

In the "feeling supported" category, college graduates who had at least one professor make them excited about learning, knew their professors cared, and had a mentor doubled their odds of being engaged at work and were three times more likely to be thriving than those who didn't feel supported.

In the "experiential and deep learning" category, grads who worked on a long-term project, had an internship, and were active in extracurricular activities and organizations also doubled their odds of being engaged at work. They were slightly more likely to be thriving than their counterparts.

Unfortunately, only 14% of the graduates strongly agreed that they experienced all three support elements, and just 6% strongly agreed that they experienced all three deep learning elements. Those who hit all six—a miniscule 3%.

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