Brandon Busteed on Outcomes

Brandon Busteed is executive director for education and workforce development at Gallup. He was a speaker at our Summer Seminar events in 2014, 2015, and 2016.



Summer 2016:

Brandon Busteed forecast a coming data revolution in higher education, with a move away from the analytics of classic economic measures and more toward stories of behavioral economic measures. Among the newly released findings from the Gallup-Purdue Index: Graduates who interacted with people from different backgrounds on a regular basis were twice as likely to say their education was worth the cost. Associate’s degree holders have better job satisfaction than bachelor’s degree holders, although graduate degree holders’ job satisfaction surpasses both. And “preparedness for life” increases if the college experience included emotional support and experiential learning.


Summer 2015:

Brandon Busteed shared the latest findings from the Gallup-Purdue Index—including that although being supported and having deep experiential learning while at college makes someone more likely to graduate within four years, feel prepared for life after college, be engaged at work, and be thriving in their well-being, it has no effect on their financial earnings.


Summer 2014:

“We have K-12, higher ed, and employers. And they’re all in castles with massive moats between them, when they ought to have a seamless, symbiotic relationship,” said Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education.

Busteed noted that in our school system, we’re trying to measure the wrong things with a set of metrics that is too narrow, and “that leaves so much talent on the sidelines.”

And with online access to knowledge so ubiquitous now, students can’t compete on what they know anymore—it has to be on what they’ve done and their real-world skills. Yet, as Busteed noted, there’s a broken link between education and work: 96% of chief academic officers think their colleges prepare students for work, while only 14% of Americans do and 11% of business leaders do. “Something’s wrong here,” said Busteed. “It’s a huge disconnect, a massive chasm.”

Current measures used to rate colleges are also “grossly insufficient” because they are based on inputs instead of outputs. “We’ve hung our hat on just one outcome of a degree: lifetime earnings.” But that’s not the mission of colleges and universities, an no one’s asked higher education to measure its mission until now. So Gallup asked, “What does a ‘great life’ look like?”

Gallup found that “well-being” involves purpose, social, financial, physical, and community dimensions, and it designed the Gallup-Purdue Index to measure them. Among the findings about college graduates:

  • One in six are not thriving in any of the five dimensions of well-being. And it makes no difference what type of college they went to (private/public, selective, ranked), nor what their race/ethnicity or 1st generation status was.
  • What mattered to well-being is if they strongly agreed that they were “emotionally supported” during college by professors/mentors (who made them excited about learning, cared about them as a person, or encouraged their hopes and dreams).
  • If they strongly agreed they had “experiential and deep learning” (with a long-term project, internship/job involving applied learning, or extreme involvement in an extracurricular activity), it increased their odds of being engaged at work.
  • If they took out between $20,000 and $40,000 in student loan debt, they were three times less likely to be thriving in their well-being than those with no loan debt.