Are Upper-Crust Schools Worth The Expense?

It’s impossible to definitively say whether or not the benefits of a degree from an elite college justify the expense.

The New York Times tackled the issue in a story last week, weighing research from the likes of Barron’s, which found that graduates from highly selective schools make 40 percent more than the least selective universities a few years after graduation.

Such studies, of course, can’t account for lucky breaks, personal initiative and intellect.

The most telling quote comes from sociologist professor:

“Prestige does pay,” he said. “But prestige costs, too. The question is, is the cost less than the added return?”

His answer was one he said he knew families would find maddening: “It depends.”

Let’s put the question up for debate: Do you think paying higher tuition for top schools justifies the potential returns students will see in their careers?

Is Going to an Elite College Worth the Cost? [The New York Times]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. TheGreySpectre says:

    Grad school yes, undergrad no.

    • sweetpea12 says:

      Agreed

    • portishead69 says:

      Disagree.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Except I would argue that if you can get into the very top schools (Harvard, Yale, Oxford, MIT) as an undergrad…go. The name brand will open doors, even as a recent undergrad.

    • Reading_Comprehension says:

      you can’t both be right!!!

    • Darkrose says:

      I think it depends. It is extremely difficult to get into a higher tier grad school from a lower tier 4 year college..but it is possible.

    • Marlin says:

      Neutral.

    • ARP says:

      Depends on the grad degree. I’m not sure a grad degree in literature from a Ivy league is that much better than a good state school.

      Now, for Economics, MBA, International Studies, etc., I’d agree with you.

    • Powerlurker says:

      If you’re paying for grad school, you’re doing it wrong.

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

        Depends. PhD? You shouldn’t pay. MD? Good luck not paying. JD? Most people pay.

        Master’s? Really depends. Some idiots like me will pay some.

        • Powerlurker says:

          True, but most people getting an MD or JD say they’re going to “med school” or “law school”, not “grad school”.

          • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

            This is true. But a lot of people don’t know this, so I just worry it might make people think strange things.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        It’s been awhile but it was my experience that full funding for a first year (esp. Master-level) grad student can be exceedingly hard to come by.

        • hansn says:

          In the sciences there’s usually first year recruitment fellowships, labs willing to add you on as a grunt RA, or other funding options. In the humanities they just tell you that funds will magically appear later if you attend. Sometimes they do.

          • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

            “In the sciences there’s usually first year recruitment fellowships, labs willing to add you on as a grunt RA, or other funding options. In the humanities they just tell you that funds will magically appear later if you attend. Sometimes they do.”

            I am in the sciences and full first year funding was definitely not a given. It was generally easy to get an assistantship but a full tuition waiver was more of a challenge. I only had one department offer me a tuition waiver, stipend, and a lab position and I definitely jumped all over it.

            I was also in the PhD program but dropped out when I got my MS. There were very few terminal Masters students in the program and I don’t think any of them, in their first year at least, got the same deal I did.

            • Powerlurker says:

              Really? My program wouldn’t even admit you if they couldn’t fund you. First years would be funded through being TAs and after the first year, you would either continue TAing, find yourself a fellowship, or be funded as an RA through your advisor’s research grants.

    • Arcaeris says:

      I agree.

      And you can go to a state school and kill it and then get into a top grad school without as much trouble as trying to do well in a top school.

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

        Good luck getting into top grad programs without at least some undergraduate pedigree.

        People on this forum say “Oh man, just go to Podunk State and get a high GPA and then go to Harvard for grad!”

        It ain’t that easy, boys and girls. Remember that the people who are getting into the top grad schools are going to Harvard and Yale and getting high GPAs as well. All else being equal, a graduate program will look more favorably upon a 3.9 at Harvard than a 3.9 at Podunk State.

        This is especially true when you’re competing for spots at professional programs like medicine and law.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          I think things are a little more complicated than that. I got into an Ivy League grad school after going to a big public school for undergrad.

          • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

            Sure, but which big public? Berkeley? Michigan? Wisconsin?

            Of course you can do well out of big-name publics. It’s just a bit harder, and you’re still competing in a massively competitive pool.

        • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

          Speaking of which, there was this show about people going to medical school at Harvard on PBS years ago. They followed them for several years. The doctors didn’t seem to fair better in the long run than docs I know around here who went to state schools. One of the Harvard docs ended up being a quack and is practically homeless now.

  2. Michaela says:

    I think it depends on your major.

    • Hoss says:

      You’re are definitely right. It’s very difficult at the highest paying law firms to get an interview if you’re not at one of their targeted law schools. (direct knowledge)

      • Michaela says:

        Yeah. I have a friend at Harvard for Law School. He mentioned that the school spends millions on making sure that people get hired (through making exclusive fellowships and things like that). His ivy league degree greatly aid his job search. Mine, on the other hand, is not as important, so I am fine with going to a less prestigious school.

      • tsukiotoshi says:

        And unfortunately now with the surplus of Ivy leageurs and other first tier law school grads the government and non-prof jobs are largely being filled by those who would normally end up at a firm. Bad time to have attended a lower tier law school for sure.

      • souhaite says:

        Not true (from experience) – top law firms will send a few people to the recruitment programs at most of the local schools. Silicon Valley firms recuit at Santa Clara and UC Hastings, not just Stanford and Berkeley. DC firms recruit at Catholic, George Mason and GW. Every New York firm has a handful of top performers from Fordham etc. Don’t plan on going to Podunk U and getting a job at one of these firms, but if you pick a reasonably priced program in the region you plan to practice, and then bust it for three years to get great grades, you’d do just as well as those suckers who paid top dollar for the name school.

  3. eturowski says:

    Grad school, yes – but then again, if you paid for grad school, you probably paid too much.

    • lincolnparadox says:

      Show me a way to pay for an MBA from Harvard or Stanford or Yale. Sure, your job might kick in some money, but not that much money.

      The ONLY graduate programs that “pay” for grad students are science/engineering programs or programs with teaching fellowships. Typically, these fellowships only pay for 1/2 or 2/3 of your program, so you’re still out-of-pocket at least $40K plus living expenses.

      • AnthonyC says:

        “Sure, your job might kick in some money, but not that much money.”
        I know many people whose jobs paid for *all* of their grad school (PhD, JD, and MBA, and Masters programs) as well as paying them their normal salary.

        • RandomHookup says:

          Strictly speaking of MBAs (which is a very different world than the others), there are only a few fully-funded students in the very high end programs programs. Most companies aren’t willing to send you off for 2 years on the chance you might not return (even if you have to pay back the tuition). The ones I have seen are either government or came from big companies where they know you might not return.

          For the same kind of education, companies would rather send you to an executive MBA or one of the shorter programs that are expensive, but don’t take you away from your job for 1-2 years.

  4. GameHen says:

    Many Fortune 500 companies do their direct recruiting of college grads from the big name schools. They actually go to the schools and compete with each other for the graduating students. Most interns are also pulled from those big name schools.

    So for first beginning your professional career straight out of college, you’ve definitely got a leg up on the competition if you graduate from one.

    Later on in your career, it’s the work experience that matters, not your school.

  5. Mpowered says:

    Law School – Absolutely. It is the difference between 90% of the class getting a job (from a top 14 school) and 10% of the class getting job (from a ranked 50 – 100 school)

    Undergrad – It is, if you want to be a consultant or a banker. For anything else, it’s probably not necessary.

    • souhaite says:

      Actually, if you’re smart and motivated, it doesn’t matter where you go to law school (within reason – make sure it’s accredited, of course). I say that as someone 10 years out of a second tier school, and with a white-shoe firm and several great in-house jobs under my belt. Same with my classmates.

      Also, legal hiring is massively local. If you’re not planning to work in a top-tier market like NYC, then going to the best law school in your region will open far more doors for you then going to the best ones in the nation.

  6. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    Only if you want to be president. Note that in recent times, Yale / Harvard seems to hold a Duopoly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States_by_education

    Conspiracy theories, anyone?

    • Hoss says:

      You may have jinxed us. (…tries to think of a sarah palin school reference that isn’t mean-spirited…)

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      Shocking! The two most prestigious schools in the US produced the most presidents!

      Next you’ll tell me that a lot of prime ministers of the UK with to Oxbridge.

      • Hoss says:

        It’s only because most presidents were inbred from the same protestant cousins which over the years has generated alumni priority status for admission.

        • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

          Let’s look at the 20th century, just as an example, and see how this holds up.

          Obama: nope
          Bush: yep
          Clinton: nope
          Bush: yep
          Reagan: nope
          Carter: nope
          Ford: nope
          Nixon: nope
          Johnson: nope
          JFK: nope (Catholic)
          Eisenhower: nope
          Truman: nope
          Roosevelt: yep
          Hoover: nope
          Coolidge: nope
          Harding: nope
          Wilson: sorta
          Taft: sorta
          TR: NO BECAUSE HE ONCE RODE A MOOSE ACROSS A RIVER. YOUR ARGUMENT IS MOOT.

          Looking at the 20th century, I’d say the Senate is more a home of privilege than the POTUS’s office.

    • FuzzyWillow says:

      Awesome list.

      I would argue that only medicocre presidents ever came from Yale Law.

  7. sirwired says:

    I thought it was a stupid study. He’s comparing the cream of the crop to the bottom of the barrel. The vast majority of students attend “average” schools. The fact that you make more money graduating from Harvard vs. really low-end crap schools one step up from a community college is not news.

    A more valid study would be comparing the Ivy League to your average state school.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Unnecessary. A 2.0 average from an Ivy is better than a 4.0 at a state college. Anyone who goes to a state college is obviously intellectually and financially inferior, so any attempt for them to better their situation must be crushed at all costs.

      (Yes, I went to a state school. Yes, I’m bitter about it. Yes, I had a 3.8. No, I’m not employable in my field, unless I want to hand out towels at a health club.)

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        Pick the wrong field of study? I dropped out of my state university and find myself very employable in my field.

      • Fryboy 11 says:

        A 2.0 would get you kicked out of most Ivy league schools.

        • AnthonyC says:

          A C is still a passing grade. C’s across the board and you’ll still graduate.
          Fail too many classes in the course of that 2.0, though, and they’ll ask you to leave, but will almost certainly let you back a year later.

  8. slyabney says:

    I went to a really exclusive private undergrade school. Most places I’ve interviewed have been impressed with it, is it enough to justify the price (or future returns), I’m not sure. But bosses have told me they expect more of me because of my education experience.

    To note, I went to the school because I liked the smaller class sizes, the campus and the location of the campus. Of course the national rankings didn’t hurt but there was something there I knew I would never get at another school.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Agreed. This is like a study that declares people who are raised in impoverished nations make less money than 1st world countries. Comparing the worst to the best only points out the obvious.

      • slyabney says:

        Totally. Especially since a portion of people transfer into high ranking schools. I went to a community college for my 1st year, then transfered when I needed to.

        It’s very easy to draw ‘conclusions’ from comparing the worst to the ‘best’ but why would we want to do actual work ever?

  9. tchann says:

    I really think it all depends on the program a school has for the planned area of study. Was my college (a slightly expensive private liberal arts college) the best one in the area overall? Probably not. But it was by far the best in the state for my specific area of study, and the education I got there was far better than I would have had at any other school in this region.

    One should not be looking at the school alone when choosing a college, but also the attention and education they’ll be getting there. The differences can be surprising at times…

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      “One should not be looking at the school alone when choosing a college, but also the attention and education they’ll be getting there. The differences can be surprising at times…”

      Wouldn’t that be achieved by looking at the school? Just saying is all. Haha.

      • tchann says:

        What I probably meant was the school’s reputation alone…I look back at mine and snicker at its 96% placement rate after graduation…because I know now that McDonald’s is job enough to count for placement. :-P

  10. Hoss says:

    “(A)lumni of the most selective colleges earned, on average, 40 percent more a year…”

    The statistic is meaningless unless both sides of the study were accepted at elite schools.

  11. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    Defining “elite” is a bit of a challenge. I tend to think pretty much all of the top 25 undergrad schools, plus or minus 5, are “elite” based on the admissions and student bodies.

    On the other hand, some say only top 20.

    In any case, while there is a “chicken vs egg” argument in play, it’s hard to argue that having a degree from a top-ranked, respected institution is almost ever harmful in the long run.

    Also, the whole “cheap undergrad, top grad” argument is kind of troublesome, given that most top grad programs heavily pull from top undergrad programs. Look at the student bodies at top MBA, top law, top med, top PhD, top master’s programs, and you’ll find that the vast majority of them went to top universities. Top leads to top. That’s just how academia works.

    • AnthonyC says:

      You’re absolutely right. As a general rule, unless you’re particularly awesome, you have to move down in university to move up in position. Top schools produce more undergrads in any field than they accept into their Ph.D programs. Top Ph.D prgrams produce many more doctorates than they hire post-docs. Add in additional layers for becoming a professor, tenured professor, department chair, dean, etc.

      If you’re trying to become an engineer (or many other fields), then it truly doesn’t matter where your degree is from, as long as it is decent and accredited. You either won’t be going to grad school right after undergrad, or will be going while working (so that geography will matter more than prestige). But if you want to go to the top of a field, you probably need to be surrounding yourself with the best people and reputation, wherever they happen to be, as early as possible.

  12. captadam says:

    I say this as a person who works for an expensive private liberal arts college …

    … I know that graduates of elite colleges and universities make a lot more money than graduates of other schools. But how much of this pay disparity is a result of a superior education, and how much is a result of the students coming from wealthy, connected families to begin with? Wealth protects wealth.

    • lettucefactory says:

      I work in higher education, too, and bingo.

      The expensive college is more a symptom than a cause. Wealthy people send their offspring to these schools because they can and because they know, firsthand, the power of personal connections.

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

        On the other hand, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that?

        I know I would.

        I see nothing wrong with wanting the trappings of the elite.

        • veritybrown says:

          But the whole “connections of the wealthy” thing raises the question of whether simply going to those schools (if you aren’t already wealthy and connected) is going to change things very much for you. These statistics don’t necessarily mean that EVERY graduate of a prestigious school makes 40 percent more than any graduate of a lesser school. I would guess that these stats are based on averages. Taking on a HUGE amount of debt (if you’re not already wealthy and connected) in order to go to a prestigious school seems like quite a gamble. IF you manage to insinuate yourself into that web of the well connected, you MIGHT be better off than if you’d simply gotten an education (although you’ll still have all that debt). If you don’t, you’re left with whatever benefit the mere name of the school gives you, and you’ll still have all that debt.

          • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

            Who says everyone who attends a top private pays a ton anyway?

            Some of the best financial aid is offered by top private universities anyway. If your income is below a certain threshold, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale are all but free, just to name a few.

            • glasswright says:

              yeah, but how many of the people who are under that threshold does Harvard actually admit? Harvard does not want to lose money by letting in a lot of people who can’t pay, even if they say that income is not a factor in admissions. They can always figure out how much your parents make even if it is not a question spelled out in the application.

              • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

                Admissions to Harvard is need blind.

                http://www.admissions.college.harvard.edu/financial_aid/index.html

                This is not a big secret. They don’t care, particularly, about getting tuition from you now, because the more awesome Harvard grads there are, the better their reputation, and the better their returns on investment are in the long run.

              • AnthonyC says:

                Tuition at almost all top schools is need blind. Being a legacy helps, but being wealthy has *no* direct bearing on getting in. Period. Indirectly, of course, being wealthy helps you take advantage of more opportunities long before the applications process starts. But please, take a moment to look at the student body at a place like Harvard. There’s a lot of economic diversity there. Very, very few people pay anything close to sticker price. That’s one of the reasons the sticker price is so high to begin with- the people who can afford to $50k/year are part of the reason someone else can go for free. Of course, a >$30b endowment doesn’t hurt.

  13. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I think it really depends on the career field, as well as specific department and adviser.

    I went to a public school for my undergrad (Pitt and later Penn State) and then to an Ivy for grad school (Penn). In my career, coming from a good department with a well known adviser means much more than the school. Some of the best known faculty teach at smaller liberal arts colleges and big public research universities. My department was excellent at Penn but in all honesty, I think the quality of research at Pitt & Penn State were significantly better.

    But when it comes down to it, having professional certification and MS or PhD after your name matters more than the school you went to — at least in my field, anyways.

    When I was in college, I had a girlfriend who was studying (IRC) English at Carnegie Mellon. It never made much sense to me, as she spent $40k/year on tuition, to wind up making $30k/year as a social worker. If she wanted to study English, she could have gotten a much cheaper, and arguably better, education 4 blocks away at Pitt.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      To be fair, there are people who study English at top schools and go to work in consulting or as lawyers or even doctors (assuming they do the pre-med requirements on the side.) Not every English major goes on to be a social worker.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Yes, but all-in-all I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to get a liberal arts degree from a school that is known for engineering or computer science. Carnegie Mellon is an excellent school but Pittsburgh has several colleges that offer a much better educations in liberal arts.

        • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

          True! I did always find it odd to go to CMU for English.

          Their poli sci department is pretty good, though. I would think an English major in Pittsburgh would be better served at Pitt, actually. Good English department, AFAIK.

  14. Akuma Matata says:

    I think it depends on the degree, and only for the initial few years of a career. If you want to work for a top-flight law firm, then a high end degree helps. Outside of that, I don’t know that it’s necessary. A school with big name recognition will help open those initial doors, but 15-20 years from now, it will be your work experience and not what college you went to that gets you your job.

    • RobSmalls says:

      I agree. The career field you enter and the networking contacts you can potentially develop at an “elite” school probably makes an impact at the outset, but not necessarily a lasting one. But it’s pretty difficult to quantify in the end, and you just have to decide if that’s the kind of coin you want to drop for an education or not.

  15. c!tizen says:

    skewl is 4 lewzerz.

  16. VouxCroux says:

    Personal initiative and intelligence count for more than anything. But if you combine those things with a a known quantity in an “elite” college, then you can get great personal results and a lot of choices. Someone without those qualities will get the doors opened for them but they won’t walk through.

    • minjche says:

      I agree. In fact, I think in this one short comment you’ve provided more insight than the entire linked study.

    • Gulliver says:

      Personal initiative and intelligence, but attending Jacksonville JUCO will not get you an interview. The fact is those with less initiative and intelligence from an elite school will trump those from the non-elite. When I graduated college my offers were anywhere from 25-50% higher than my counterparts because of going to a top tier university. The competition to get a graduate from my school was intense for companies. I had multiple offers, and it was a negotiation as to who would give me the best deal. Many friends went to Directional State University and if they had a job offer they were not in a position to negotiate.
      When I hire people now, I look more favorably on a person who had the ability to get through a top tier university over some that were not as challenging, because they were already aware of the competitive nature of the world.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I also am in charge of hiring, at our branch office anyways, and I don’t think I’d ever turn an applicant away due to the school he or she went to. However, I will ask “who did you work under” and request a copy of their thesis and unabridged CV.

        I’d be much more impressed with somebody who went to a small school but is well published and has an in depth thesis vs. somebody who went to a prestigious school but has a 5 page capstone, has never published (or even presented), and worked under an adviser I’ve never heard of.

  17. souhaite says:

    I notice they didn’t control for field. How much are these numbers skewed by the fact that most of the financial entities paying massively outsized salaries and bonuses recruit exclusively from the top schools? What about people who don’t want to work in finance? Do the numbers hold?

  18. Bob Lu says:

    IT really depends. Especially if you don’t count “return” only in the form of money. How do you value being able to do top notch scientific research to expend the boundary of human knowledge (a tiny tiny bit)? The job is demanding, the pay is absolute laughable. Does it “worth it”?

  19. RickinStHelen says:

    I can understand the “it depends” answer. I have hired many people through the years, and depending on the position and career status, the college they attended plays a role. On an early career position, a degree from a prestigious school means more than a degree from “East South Central BFU.” The education one recieves from noted academics versus adjunct instructors, plus the likelihood that your education is up to date makes it worth hiring the applicant from the better school, if all other things are equal. If the applicant is a schmuck or unqualified, I don’t care where they went to school. Once you reach mid-career, I really do not care where you went to school, it is what you have done in your professional life that interests me.

    In fair disclosure, I got my BS from a small, regional state school, but my MS from a highly ranked state school.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      “On an early career position, a degree from a prestigious school means more than a degree from “East South Central BFU.””

      It really depends on the department and specific faculty members. In my field, some of the most well respected and most published researchers are faculty at tiny schools that aren’t well known. There’s often a lot less politics and more freedom for faculty at small PUIs or liberal arts colleges.

      Especially for grad school, it’s not necessarily where you went but who your adviser was.

  20. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Nepotism and status will probably always be a factor, but I think at the end of the day it should really come down to who can get the job done.

    Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

  21. tbax929 says:

    I transferred from an Ivy League college to a state school when I moved across the country. I don’t even mention my Ivy League school on my resume, since I only went there for two years. What I’ve found in my line of work is that having a degree is way more important than where it’s from or what it’s in. In fact, people who brag about where they went to school come off like Andy from The Office. Once you’ve been out of school long enough to accumulate some actual experience, nobody gives a crap.

    • effulgent7 says:

      Agree. I did almost the same (transferred from Ivy to small private liberal arts school). In addition to no one caring where I went to school (I have worked in science and education), I found that my 2nd school had faculty and employees that were much more caring and helpful.

      The Ivy I attended encouraged cutthroat competition among students for something as simple as finding an advisor in your major. Also, I was a victim of the bait and switch financial aid- got lots for my freshman year and despite good performance, it was reduced by more than half for my sophmore year. Not worth all the hassle to go to an Ivy, IMO.

  22. Straspey says:

    Leonard Bernstein went to Harvard as an undergraduate specifically to get a full and well-rounded education – when he could just as easily received a full scholarship to any of the world’s great music conservatories – which he attended as a graduate student.

    He urged everybody to do the same.

  23. Pax says:

    I think it depends a lot on the student’s intended career path.

    If they’re going to go into, say, Law and Poilitics? The networking they can do with other movers-and-shakers-to-be is a very valuable resource all it’s own. Who you know, can have a large impact on what you can get elected to/for/as, and the higher up the ladder you can start, the further you will probably go later.

    If they “just” want to teach chemistry in the local highschool, however? Not so much; building a network of influential contacts isn’t really going to help with that career path.

    Flipside, wanting to work with charities makes that networking useful not for the influence, but, because all those “old school friends” are likely to be well-paid, and have well-paid friends … which makes them a great resource for whichever charity you end up working with/for. :)

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      What if, however, someone enters school wanting to “just” be a teacher, and then later decides that law is his calling?

      The nice thing about a big famous school is that it’s a hedge against risk of many sorts, including the capricious career callings of college students.

    • effulgent7 says:

      As someone who switched careers so I could “just” teach high school, I disagree that networking isn’t useful for teachers. Sure, it may be more local and regional-based, although there are many national professional organizations for teachers, but it’s networking just the same.

      More on topic, you’d be surprised at the influential and successful alumni that can be claimed by some lesser known colleges and universities- I know I have been.

  24. lance55 says:

    I went to college in a small, expensive, business-oriented (private) school in Ohio, and while the education was great, I believe that my greatest take-away has been the social skills I’ve developed, as well as the networking opportunities that I have taken advantage of. Sometimes its the culture of these prestigious schools that really cannot be matched.

  25. Keter says:

    I don’t know about college, because family drama cost me my chance to go, but I was afforded two years of elite schooling in 4th and 5th grades, and what I learned in those two years literally was the bulk of the education I received. I didn’t start learning anything new until I went to trade school, but that was just specialist training. Public schools are worse than useless. BTW, I graduated at 15 and scored well enough on the SAT despite not having classes in half of the math that appeared on the test (and having to figure it out while taking the test) to get a national “commended” score and qualify for a full-ride scholarship to the University of Chicago (which a nasty family issue cost me). I can only imagine where I would have been had my academic career not been interrupted so many times.

    My son was also having issues in public schools and I tried to make up for it as much as I could since I really could not afford private school, but did manage to scrape together enough money to send him to private school for his freshman year in high school. He struggled, but when he returned to public school, he found the same boost – one that allowed him to finally excel and find what he needed to be doing. He went on to be Company Commander in JROTC, top graduate of his Air Force basic training class, and top graduate in the following two tech schools. He’s been able to pretty much write his own ticket ever since. I don’t think he could have done this without that one year of really premium education.

  26. tenioman says:

    this past weekend I was accepted both to the University of michigan and the university of chicago!!

  27. majortom1981 says:

    It depends on your field. I am in an ice paying government job and got it with graduating from a new york state suny college. This is a network admin job.

    Also most grad schools will not care about what undergrad school you went to as long as you got good grades.

    Also in the computer sindustry it is possible to have soo much education that you price yourself out of a job. So going to all top tier schools businesses might think you want too much salary and not higher you.

    Lawyer jobs i think would require top tier. Computers jobs mostly no

  28. scgirl_212 says:

    I have always been told (at least for my field, archaeology) that for undergraduate it is the reputation of the school, for masters it’s reputation of the department and for a PhD it is the reputation of the advisor.

    Now of course if you can get tight with well known advisor in the undergrad or masters level they can help you get into a better PhD because at least in my field everyone knows each other.
    This can be harder than it sounds because at many top universities undergrads are no considered no more than a number by faculty.

  29. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I’m going to leave one more comment. I think this speaks more about who is admitted into the schools than the quality of the education. Clearly going to school with a bunch of top tier students is also going to provide vastly better networking opportunities as well.

    I always wanted to go to MIT but for some reason I only applied at my state university. I just wasn’t with it my senior year of high school. I missed the deadline on the application to the state university (to their very competitive college of engineering) but was admitted anyways (So I probably had a really good shot at MIT as well, had I applied on time and such).

    Having been interviewing people I know if we saw an MIT resume come across the table they would go to the top. We know what types of people they accept, and that is who we want to hire.

  30. NickelMD says:

    I went to NC State for undergrad and UNC for medical school. My *entire* tuition for all 8 years was less than a semester at your average private ‘elite’ school. I got my top pick for residency program (in a very competitive specialty) and was a chief resident my final year. I have never applied for a job I haven’t gotten subsequent to residency and make enough that Obama’s caving to Rethuglicans on the tax bill meant that I personally do better.

    I’m 40 now and before I am 42 with the exception of my mortgage I will be debt free (my student loans are now about $11,000, but the rate is so low that I am paying extra on the mortgage rather than just finish my loans off with a check.) And in fact I am in the black now, if you total my liabilities (mortgage/SLs) with my savings (retirement).

    If you ask me whether Harvard or Duke would have been worth it for either undergrad or medical school, I would laugh in your face since that would have meant me being up to my ass in SL debt till I was 50. The benefit you get from your education is directly proportional to what you put in it, not what you pay for it.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      That’s great for you, since your in-state school was an option for you.

      What about someone, like my wife, who didn’t manage to get into a UC because the UCs are damned near impossible to get into, and only was able to go to a private med school?

      The fact of the matter is that most med students will graduate with debt simply because most will not have the option you had. And trust us, if she could’ve gone to UCSF, UCLA, UCI, UCSD, or UCD, she would have in a heartbeat.

      • NickelMD says:

        Whether or not you can get into your school of choice is not the question the article asked. It asked if an elite school was worth the money. So to answer that you have to ask if you could choose UCD or Stanford, which would be the better option?

        Though that is a telling point: for both your wife and I the state schools would have been preferable. Though in cases where there is only one school available to you, that’s obviously the best one!

        • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

          Yes, but you used med school as an example where money can be saved, and I’m not entirely sure it’s a good example.

          Between NYMC and Columbia Med, I’m almost positive my wife would have preferred Columbia, if only for the better practical education opportunities. “elite” doesn’t always mean “more money.”

          • NickelMD says:

            “elite’ doesn’t always mean ‘more money.”

            No, but with regard to colleges, its a pretty good measure. Which is why the words are used synonymously in this article. And the fact that the average tuition and fees of private medical schools is twice what it is at public universities, its not only a good measure, but a significant difference.

  31. JiminyChristmas says:

    Something I think worth mentioning is that if you think you want to go to an ‘elite’ school but can’t afford it – apply anyway. If you are admitted to a highly selective school they will make some effort to make it work for you financially. The ‘name-brand’ school is more likely to have the resources to give you a good financial aid package. In my case, thanks to grants and scholarships from the school, my actual cost at a top-25 liberal arts college was comparable to what I would have paid to go to my relatively mediocre state university.

    At the same time, unless you are Ivy League or for some reason see a direct path to a very lucrative career after college, there’s no undergraduate degree in the country worth taking on $50,000+ in debt for.

  32. JiminyChristmas says:

    Setting aside simple return on investment, I do think there are important intangible benefits the typical student at an elite college will get that one at an average college will not. Note, I said typical.

    I went to a very selective small liberal arts college, grad school at a state university, and also taught at the same state university. The thing that struck me about the state school was that plenty of people had credentials but weren’t really educated in a general sense.

    What blew me away about the people with B.A’s and B.S.’s from the state school was how poorly almost all of them wrote. Halfway through my first quarter I learned that if I penalized students for poor spelling and grammar most of them would get C’s or worse on written assignments. Ultimately, the job was not to teach English so you accept it and grade people on whether or not you thought they understood the content.

    On a side note, what I was teaching was a technical discipline with lots of students who spoke English as a second language. Even with the ones you could tell were very bright, their writing was a disaster. I never knew what to do with those grades. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be in a grad program if they can’t communicate in standard written English but, again, not my job to teach English.

    The flip side to this is the people from ‘good’ schools, even if they were otherwise lackluster students, could at least write a well-structured research paper complete with proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Likewise, they tended to have a general understanding of things like history and culture that made their work more interesting, relative to the state school students who seemed to take a more vocational approach to college.

  33. debones says:

    I went to a private Catholic High School. I then went to the local university that’s received very high marks for being a top school in the west.

    If there were a choice between me, a 3.5 student from Catholic school vs. a 3.5 student from Valley High (the local alternative school) – the private school student would always be picked hands down.

    And this was for undergrad.

  34. maruawe says:

    No! Some of the schools trade on their name and have nothing to do with the quality of education that you receive…

  35. Razor512 says:

    the education is pretty much the same as for the most part things have been standardized (if not then I could make my own college and make you into a engineer by giving you a first grade math quiz)

    the problem is that even though there’s no effect on capability or intelligence, a business will still pick a student who went to Harvard of a student who went to a CUNY college.

    For most college dependent fields, most of what you learned in college will never be used at your actual place of work, (you would not believe how many people have been working successfully in certain fields with fake college certificates)

    The main purpose of the paper is to prove that you can sit in one place for 4 years and behave your self and conform to unreasonable demands and situations.