Purdue president Mitch Daniels: More college students should have internships

According to the Gallup-Purdue Index, 48 percent of graduates with related internships or work agree that college ‘prepared me well for life after college.’ Only 19 percent of those without such opportunities agreed.

Nick Tomecek/Northwest Florida Daily/AP/File
A graduate of Northwest Florida State College wears her cap during commencement in Niceville, Fla., May 10, 2014.

College graduates who had internships or relevant part-time jobs while in college felt better prepared for success in life, according to the latest findings from the Gallup-Purdue Index.

Forty-eight percent of graduates with related internships or work agreed that college “prepared me well for life after college.” Among those without such activities, only 19 percent felt as well prepared.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels says it’s important to measure such outcomes because “it’s time for higher education to document the value of the very expensive product it’s offering,” he says in a Monitor phone interview.

The index is a research effort by Gallup, Purdue University, and the Lumina Foundation to examine college graduates’ lives. It’s based on a nationally representative online survey of nearly 30,000 adults in the United States who have attained at least a bachelor’s degree. The survey covered a wide range of topics, which are being highlighted in a series of reports.

Purdue has a long history of helping students find internships or work experience, but “now we see this is something we need to come as close as we can to universalizing for our students,” Mr. Daniels says.

In a pilot program in its second year, Purdue students can stay enrolled and get entry-level jobs with companies like HP and Intel, on or near the campus in West Lafayette, Ind.

The index measures not just the workplace financial success of college graduates, but also aspects of being an engaged citizen – and internships have value in both regards, Daniels says.

Among college graduates in the past four years, 35 percent had found internships or relevant part-time job opportunities during college, compared with a quarter of students in the 1960s and ’70s and 31 percent in the 1990s.

Such opportunities appear to be equitably distributed. The percentage who participated was slightly higher among private college graduates (31 percent versus 28 percent of public college graduates); women (31 percent versus 27 percent of men); and African-Americans (32 percent versus 29 percent of whites and Hispanics and 26 percent of Asians).

The College Board suggests several online resources for students seeking internships, including GoAbroad.com, which shows opportunities in different countries, and Idealist, which allows you to search for internships at nonprofits.

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