Higher Education’s Six Sigma

Career College Central summary:

  • Strategies such as Six Sigma and total quality management took corporate America by storm in the 1990s, serving as tools and techniques for continuous improvement. They helped companies drive down costs, increase profitability, and improve customer satisfaction.
  • Yet higher education remained conspicuously absent from the quality movement, even as industries around the world widely adopted these strategies. Now, findings from a Gallup study of college graduates may finally change this, ushering in an era of continuous improvement for higher education — its equivalent of Six Sigma.
  • A profound link to life well-being and engagement at work: There are many different rankings of higher education institutions, but they have yet to motivate real and continuous improvement. Since 1986, when the Six Sigma movement was launched, higher education tuition has risen dramatically while its quality has come under ever greater scrutiny. Yet over this same time frame, higher education has studied pretty much everything except itself. Few institutions of higher learning can answer the fundamental question: What elements of college drive long-term measures of success?
  • Findings from the Gallup-Purdue Index — a study of more than 30,000 college graduates — answer this question. We've identified six crucial elements of the college experience that have a profound link to long-term success in work engagement and life well-being: three elements that pertain to feeling supported and three that apply to experiential and deep learning. These are all things colleges can measure and manage — and by taking action, they might not only improve the campus experience for their students, but enrich students' lives after graduation.

    • College graduates who felt supported during college (professors cared, professors made them excited about learning, and they had a mentor) doubled their odds of being engaged at work. They were also three times as likely to be thriving in all areas of well-being as those who didn't feel supported.
    • College graduates who engaged in experiential and deep learning (worked on a long-term project, had an internship, and were extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations) during their college experience doubled their odds of being engaged at work. They also were slightly more likely to be thriving in all areas of well-being than were students who did not have these experiences.

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