PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Going to a better college doesn’t mean you’ll be any happier at work or in life, new research shows.

According to the inaugural Gallup-Purdue Index, whether a graduate went to a top 100 school, community college, public or private university has little to no effect on their engagement at work or well-being.

In fact, students who were more engaged with a professor or staff, participated in numerous activities and had little to no debt were the most likely to be “thriving” in five categories — purpose, social, financial, community, and physical.

More than 30,000 students nationwide were surveyed for the poll, which is set to be released annually for the next five years.

The study found 39% of college graduates were engaged at work “without distinction between public vs. private not-for-profit colleges.”

Students who had no student debt were three times more likely to be thriving in all five categories than those who had taken out $20,000 to $40,000 in loans.

“It turns out that student debt hinders our national economy just as it hinders the individual life prospects of students who borrow too much of it,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels on the university’s website. “It is past time for leaders in higher education to go to work on restraining costs and making sure that our doors remain open to all students who meet our standards.”

“The type of college or university a person attends and the institution’s ‘ranking’ is less relevant at a time when the nation’s need for talent puts students’ life and work outcomes at the heart of the learning enterprise,” added Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, which was also a partner in the study.

So, what makes for a “thriving” grad? Experiential and deep learning at a job, internship or long-term project, involvement in school or extracurricular activities and organizations and graduating in four years or less.

Researchers say this study is the first of its kind and calls for more accountability in higher education.

For more info, click here.

Top Content On CBSPhilly

Watch & Listen LIVE