Monday, December 20, 2010

Is a Prestigious College Worth It? More Importantly, Would You Believe What These People Have to Say About It?

With the state of unemployment today, one must ask whether a college education is worth it?  Since most people view college as a non-negotiable, the question becomes; is an Elite College worth it?
So, once again, the ineffectual New York Times examines the issue by quoting studies conducted by... guess who?  Elite college educators.  Should we buy their self-serving studies?  Here's some of the notable points:

...One of those authors, Scott L. Thomas, a sociologist who is a professor of educational studies at Claremont, said high school students and their parents should take any attempt to apply broad generalizations to such personal choices with a grain of salt.
“Prestige does pay,” Mr. Thomas said in an interview. “But prestige costs, too. The question is, is the cost less than the added return?”
Among the most cited research on the subject — a paper by economists from the RAND Corporation and Brigham Young and Cornell Universities — found that “strong evidence emerges of a significant economic return to attending an elite private institution, and some evidence suggests this premium has increased over time.”
“Education is a long-run investment,” said Professor Eide, chairman of the economics department at Brigham Young, “It may be more painful to finance right now. People may be more hesitant to go into debt because of the recession. In my opinion, they should be looking over the long run of their child’s life.”
I'm happy that RAND was involved because it's relatively objective.  Of course, it should be noted that "RAND is also the home to the Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School, one of the original graduate programs in public policy and the first to offer a Ph.D."  So, I guess they are in on it too.  So, I credit them and discredit them in one paragraph. Lovely.
I don't know who is better suited to provide an unbiased study of the actual value of an elite college education.  However, I'm certain that educators will never tell you that an education, elite or not, is not worth the cost.  It's funny that these educators are cited in an article that directly affects them. It would be comical and absurd if car manufacturers were quoted in a story claiming that expensive cars are safer than inexpensive cars.  So why does an article like this make it into the esteemed New York Times? I'll tell you why, because we respect educators and colleges.  We expect that they will be honest and truthful when they have proven to be anything but.  Just look at the way they rip off students.  If you remember, in the post I did about No Sucker Left Behind, it's apparent that colleges see their students as an ATM.  A few examples, once again:
1. Bait and Switch Scholarship: The first year that I attended FYU (Fuck You University), I was given a scholarship based on ... hell, I didn't know. I had good grades in high school, so I assumed it was based on merit.  I filled out a FAFSA, and I got a scholarship.  At the end of first year, I filled out another FAFSA. I had a 4.0 (all of college actually)--so I assumed I would get the same financial package, but the scholarship was gone--POOF.  It was gone. I asked about it and I was told that it just wasn't available to me anymore. Classic bait and switch.  Give the freshman a great financial aid packages and pull out the rug from under them and they are stuck.  What are they going to do, transfer?
2.  FYU had an average sports team.  One year, the school made it to finals or playoffs or whatever they are called, and the next year, tuition went up by 20%.  As it turns out, the reason why schools give a shit about their sports team is NOT school spirit.  Rather, it's the greatest marketing tool ever.  If the team is doing great, then you can justify a hike in tuition.  Oh yah, alumna love to donate money to their schools when the sports team is doing well.
3.  Did you ever wonder why vital classes were offered only once a year, and not in the summer?  Why can't organic chemistry be offered every semester when it's the prerequisite to so many majors?  It's not JUST because the professors are lazy shits.  It's also because, if you don't fix your schedule perfectly, you're forced to enroll for one additional semester. I was wondering why so many people graduate from college in 5 years, rather than 4.  That's why!
In the end, I don't even care what the premise of the article is.  Educators would never discount a college education altogether, as they should, because they make too much perpetrating a fraud on America. The issue shouldn't be whether an elite college is worth it, it should be whether a college education is worth it.  They are nearly all over priced. College is a great experience, it's true.  But it doesn't make you more marketable.  It's a luxury, i.e. reserved for people who can afford it--but you'll never hear it from the educators.  Who would put themselves out of business?


  1. Anyone with a PhD after their last name or in big-time college administration is the product of the "elite" educational system, and to get to that stage they had to "prove themselves" by beating out numerous other applicants, first for their graduate school spots and then for their professorships and then for their tenure. They're as biased as a BigLaw partner writing about the legal system being fair. For all of them, the educational system has been more than worth it.

    Most of these undergraduate schools have multiple professors who are Marxists at heart, or at least anti-Capitalists, who should be railing against this garbage every day. And yet most fully participate in the scheme, running a new batch of chickens through the factory each year. You'd think they'd pick up on it, but I get the feeling most professors have their heads too far up their own asses to see the elephant in the room. The administrations must get a real kick out of that trick, making millions stuffing the conservative kids' heads with communist filler before the capitalist slaughter. I would, anyway.

  2. Further to this, please mark your calendars to look at this:

  3. How can an elite college education not be worth it? It is an undisputed fact that elite grads are likely to have vastly greater lifetime earnings that those who are not elite grads.

  4. 6:02, it might not be worth it if those vastly greater lifetime earnings are a function of something other than the elite college education. Correlation rather than causation.

    If, for example, elite colleges only admitted high aptitude applicants who were likely to have vastly greater lifetime earnings regardless of where they went to college, then the elite colleges themselves might not be contributing much to those greater earnings.

  5. You see that's basic logic, so 6:02 won't get that...instead the fool will encourage people to drop money and go to these schools anyway....completely unable to grasp the fact that the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates types don't really even need school anyway....sheesh....anyway, I encourage everyone to watch CNBC's program entitled "America's College Debt Crisis (link above) with great article here:

  6. "How can an elite college education not be worth it? It is an undisputed fact that elite grads are likely to have vastly greater lifetime earnings that those who are not elite grads."

    Jesus tap-dancing Christ! Is there like a computer somewhere that just spits this illogical garbage out?

  7. >How can an elite college education not be worth it? It is an undisputed fact that elite grads are likely to have vastly greater lifetime earnings that those who are not elite grads.


    Ha, I say.


    Anonymous might want to listen to Dave Ramsey's financial advice call-in radio show. Every day, Ramsey takes calls from people who believed this same "undisputed fact" only to learn the hard way that a degree from Elite University doesn't necessarily lead to a dime more in salary than a degree from State University (or more than a certification from State Tech College). But those Elite U. grads are likely to have substantially more debt.

    When I returned to college a few years ago, I was shocked to learn that I (who have NO college degree) was out-earning most of my professors. If I get a technical certification in my current line of work, the odds are high that I'll be earning close to double the salary of many professors with 6 to 12 years of education.

    In most cases, the only thing a degree from Elite U. gives someone is a smug sense of satisfaction that they graduated from Elite U rather than State U; four times the tuition doesn't equal four times the education or salary.

    P.S.: BYU is a remarkably cheap school for Mormons. They have relatively high admissions standards, but the tuition is only about $2500/semester for undergrads.

  8. I have to take this opportunity to brag on my undergrad alma mater, North Carolina State. It's one of the most economical universities in the country, even for out of state applicants. My wife went there from New Hampshire, planning to be a vet, because NCSU has among the top few vet programs in the country and the tuition is about half of other top vet programs (like Cornell).

    Organic chemistry is given year-round, fall, spring, and summer. I graduated with $4k in student loans, the rest was covered by scholarships and financial aid. And those loans were primarily because I decided to stay in some of the nicer on-campus housing.

    USNWR ranks NCSU as a top20/30 chem engr school, which is what I got my degree in. I'd say I got a fantastic bargain.

  9. As far as angel's claim that elite college is overpriced and not worth it, she has a point. But to say that college as a whole is a luxury because it doesn't improve your market standing is to assume (I would argue mistakenly) that the only reason people have to go to college is to be financially better off than before they began. But economic value is not the only kind of value there is, and seeking to understand ourselves and our societies and be more rational in the way we think and act (all of which a liberal arts education promotes) is an intrinsically valuable activity.

  10. Oh HELL yeah it makes a difference where one goes to school--in certain vocational vectors, hat is.

    Sorry, but if you are shooting for a career, say, in diplomacy, it matters a BUTTLOAD whether you went to Yale or Stanford, or whether you went to a State school. It is part of a recipe which includes in the triumvirate pedigree and connections as well. It is the old-boy network. Check out where the degrees came from with persons in the upper echelons at Justice, State, etc.

    Wanna be a medical doctor? Yo're right, doesn't matter really where you do your undergrad, or beyond, as long as the right courses are passed, etc. But these other, super-competitive gigs, you bet it matters.

  11. I am a Foreign Service Officer (U.S. diplomat) and I went to a state school--a land grant--so you are totally incorrect 3:16. The majority of my friends/peers are state school grads as well. I think people confuse the beginnings of diplomacy in America (when East Coast ivy schools were the only game in-country) with today. Absent a few annual hires from Columbia (SIPA), Harvard (Kennedy) and Princeton (Woodrow Wilson), the vast majority of hires are state school grads. There are some from Georgetown, Tufts, George Washington and Johns Hopkins (as all have international affairs degree programs) but the overwhelming majority are people who just happened to pass the test and have public health, education, law, medical, agricultural and economics degrees. Also, there are also U.S. diplomats at Commerce and the Dept. of Agriculture (Foreign Commercial Service and Foreign Agricultural Service--neither group has to take a test to get a job).

  12. December 21, 2010 4:56 PM

    A LOT of people pass that written test, from all kinds of schools in their backgrounds, and don't get in. So, it is a lot more than "happening" to pass that test, that's for sure.

  13. J-Dog handled that moron at 6:02. This idiot simply parroted what he or she heard an academic say.

    Also, I do not believe this report. The authors of the cited work are employed by PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES. I live in Utah, and I can tell you that there are PLENTY of BYU grads who are making $30K-$40K.

    Angel did a feature on Claudia Dreifus's book "Higher Education?" a while back. I bought the book, and the authors noted that Princeton University asserts that it produces WORLD LEADERS in business, arts, diplomacy, politics, etc.

    The authors randomly chose one graduating class from Princeton. They found that no one from that class went on to set the world on fire. Sure, many of them did very well in their personal and professional lives. But, yet even this prestigious school did not live up to its billing. (I will also point out that this particular class did not need to concern themselves with taking out $100K in student loans for a Bachelor's degree.)

    I had a friend who graduated from Harvard in 2002. He majored in chemistry. Last I heard, he was bagging groceries for $7 or $8 an hour. He was also living in a crummy apartment, with a roommate. He rode public transportation, because he could not afford a car.

    In the final analysis, a degree from an elite school is MUCH easier for the children of wealthy and connected families to attain. Furthermore, these privileged kids do not need to worry about soul-crushing student debt. A person of modest means can get into these schools, but they may end up out taking $100K in loans - and not find a job that pays well.

  14. Also, J-Dog was correct in his first comment, as well. Many undergraduate "professors" are Marxists at heart. Then again, they have the luxury of spouting off such theories and beliefs. They should try this approach in an actual job, where they are paid based on their productivity and efficiency.

    This is sickening. You now have TONS of leftist "professors" who gladly sell their soul - and their ass - to Corporate America. In fact, MANY "professors" now serve on corporate boards. (The executives like having these ass-clowns on board because they KNOW the "professors" are ignorant and will rubber-stamp anything that comes across as a good idea. They are yes-men and yes-women. Other businessmen will provide some resistance to a stupid idea. Plus, it might impress people to see some Ph.Ds and famous "professors" on the board.)

    Also, look at the number of college buildings, departments, "chairs" and "professorships" named after rich white guys who donated a TON of money to the school. You can even have a building named after you, if you went to a different school - or if you only have a BS. As long as that check is big, that is ALL that matters. "Do you want a building named after your hot-ass wife, who spent a semester in college?! Just add another zero on that end of that check."

  15. For students hobbled by student debt, the name on the degree doesn't matter.
    The degree could say Yale University, it could say Podunk State; in all cases, with respect to building wealth, the student is still like a person shackled in iron, and being made to run a mile race against people not so bound.

    If one can get a degree without student debt, then one can maximize the quality of one's education by choosing a major which will teach something useful (Perhaps one should look for a major which the study of somewhat rigorous mathematics is required in order to be awarded a degree) and going to a school that possesses some measure of prestige (Avoiding Phoenix, Kaplan, and the like as the scams that they are).

    Be aware that 'prestige' is not actually measure of quality. I've been told that it is possible to be awarded a bachelor's degree from Harvard without being in a class taught by someone who has been issued a PhD. Meanwhile the professors at Random State may condensend to, and hell, might actually enjoy teaching classes with undergraduates in them.

  16. I agree with the underlying message, but this blog post is almost cherry-picking from the NYT article.

    The way I read the article, it gives both sides of the argument. One side argues that the elite colleges might be worth the higher price. Those were the snippets that the blog post quoted. But there were also snippets that said that when some of the researchers followed people who had similar IQs and SAT scores or whatever, but some went to elite schools and others went to nearby state schools to be near their families or whatever, those two cohorts wound up very similar in their future outcomes.

    So, there are in fact studies that show that elite colleges may have only minimal beneficial boosts. At the same time, I think studies showed that if you are poor, or a minority, or both, then the elite schools help a great deal. Prestige builds networks they otherwise would not have.

    As for going to a state school and going into the foreign service, I personally think it is kinda wrong to think that a state school can't be considered an elite. I happened to graduate from a state school that was also considered somewhat elite. (think something like UVA). The two categories can definitely overlap.

    Note also that not all state schools are cheap. It's not like they're community colleges (aka "discos with books.")

  17. Ha. Archangel, you cherry picked my post. :) I state that the premise of the article is not important to me, it's who they cite as experts in the field and whose studies are considered. Ultimately, to ask those invested in higher education anything about their ideas on the subject is patently biased and contrary to logic. Of course, the article comes up with no real answer in standard NYT fashion. Don't shake the boat, you know. Those corporate monsters can close down a pamphlet like the NYT with a phone call.

  18. I don't think I cherry-picked the post, but sorry if I did.

    My question would be: what experts in the field did the studies that followed around similarly SAT/IQ people who went to drastically different schools only to wind up very similarly positioned in adult life. Honestly, while it's possible for people in academia to be patently biased, the contradictory studies must come from somewhere, right? To say that an academic can't thoughtfully criticize an academic institution (what about that law professor from Indiana university) is to say that govt officials in positions such as auditor general or inspector general or even internal affairs divisions are "patently" biased since they are part of the organiztion they are tasked to investigate. I don't think that is true.

    Regardless, I'm going to do a spirit of Christmas attitude and say "we're both right." lol. To all, have a fantastic Xmas and a fantastic 2011~~

  19. I went to a Podunk State commuter school (first-ever dorms were built after I graduated), because I could do it for free, live with parents while I did, and pocket the leftover scholarship money to use it for study abroad summer programs. Then I went to the same State's pharmacy school, which was still good enough for a very competitive post-doc on the East Coast and at the ripe old age of 26 I have started making >100K in a very interesting field with little competitition (as I am a niche specialist). Hurray for Podunk State! More than ten years later I still keep in touch with some of my professors who taught me more than any big-name prof who has no time for students ever could.



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