College Value

Raising the Voice of the Consumer of Higher Education

By Bill Hansen, USA Funds President and CEO

In most discussions of improving the results of higher education, the views of one stakeholder group are frequently left out. While higher education administrators and faculty members, association heads and public policy experts, legislators and other government officials, and sometimes even employer representatives have a place at the table, the voice of the ultimate consumer of higher education — students and graduates — often is muted, if heard at all.

That’s not the case in other sectors. Major brands spend billions of dollars each year trying to assess the needs, wants and satisfaction levels of their customers.

I believe that listening to the voice of the consumer is as important in higher education as it is in every other endeavor. That’s why USA Funds® is joining Gallup in supporting the first daily poll of Americans about their experiences with higher education and how that experience has influenced the course of their lives following graduation.

The research results that will flow from this daily polling will provide insights into:

  • The aspirations of prospective students.
  • What factors are critical for current students to follow to ensure their success in college and in their careers following graduation.
  • Why graduates selected the postsecondary programs they chose to pursue.
  • Where graduates’ paths through education led them following graduation.
  • How graduates are using what they learned in college in their careers today.

As the sample from this daily polling grows, we will be able to make comparisons between types of aspiring, current and former students, including those with no college degrees and those with two-year and four-year degrees. We will be able to segment the results geographically, by state and by up to 100 metropolitan areas. I am especially interested in the results for adult learners, now the largest population in postsecondary education, and the more than 30 million Americans who have some college but no degree.

Sample Polling Site

The insights that I expect from this research will help USA Funds refine its own support for activities that promote what we call Completion With a Purpose℠ — enhancing student success in college with a strong connection to rewarding careers following graduation. But I expect many others will benefit from the dissemination of these results.

Initial Polling Results

College-bound students and their parents will gain insights for making better postsecondary program selections. Students will learn what in-school practices give them the best chance of graduating and launching seamlessly into their careers. Educators will learn how to better serve their students and enhance their prospects for success. Policymakers will gain information for better aligning education programs with the needs of state and local economies.

As you can tell, I’m excited about the potential large-scale benefits of this information for improving the results that our higher education system is producing for students and for the future prosperity of our nation.

And it all starts with the voice of the consumer.

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