Going to an Elite College Won't Get You More Money; Being Good Enough to Get Accepted at One Will


Via SissyWillis's Twitter feed, Instapundit, and Newsalert (whew, tired) comes a NY Times story about whether it's worth the extra dough to go to an expensive, elite school. Do grads from such joints make more money post-graduation than if they'd gone to less-selective institutions?

The short version: No. The slightly longer version goes something like this: It sure looks that way.

To wit:

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."

Grouping colleges by the same tiers of selectivity used in a popular college guidebook, Barron's, the researchers found that alumni of the most selective colleges earned, on average, 40 percent more a year than those who graduated from the least selective public universities, as calculated 10 years after they graduated from high school….

But that's not the end of the story. When you compare students of equal ability (as defined by where they're at when they graduate high school), a different pattern emerges.

One flaw in such research has always been that it can be hard to disentangle the impact of the institution from the inherent abilities and personal qualities of the individual graduate. In other words, if someone had been accepted at an elite college, but chose to go to a more pedestrian one, would his earnings over the long term be the same?

In 1999, economists from Princeton and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation looked at some of the same data Professor Eide and his colleagues had used, but crunched them in a different way: they compared students at more selective colleges to others of "seemingly comparable ability," based on their SAT scores and class rank, who had attended less selective schools, either by choice or because a top college rejected them.

The earnings of graduates in the two groups were about the same — perhaps shifting the ledger in favor of the less expensive, less prestigious route. 

Jesus Christ, how much disposable income and status anxiety did the Times cram into that perhaps?

The authors of the second study, Stacy Berg Dale and Alan Krueger, did note that kids from disadvanated families seemed to do better by going to elite schools rather than less-selective ones (they didn't speculate on why). Whole Times story here.

The data that both studies use is more than a decade old and so comes with caveats; measuring success in terms of money is always problematic; etc.

As a big state school grad with a decade-plus under my belt of hiring folks from every possible background (including no college sheepskin at all!), a former student rep on various grad program admissions committees, and, most important, the father of a high school junior who seems drawn to the very most expensive schools around, I am very inclined to believe that individuals of comparable capability are going to end up at the same general place regardless of their alma mater.

In some fields, especially those that rely on semi-rigid grad school pecking orders as a filter, there's no question that it's probably always better to pick Princeton over Rutgers (two schools mentioned in the Times piece and the latter being my undergrad haunt). That's especially true at the grad school level. It's much rarer for a Rutgers Ph.D. to teach at Princeton than the reverse. But in most cases at the undergrad level, if money is an issue (and lord knows it always is), how "smart" you are at the all-important juncture of your life when you're 17 (I'm being ironic) is a better guide to your future than what school you, your parents, and taxpayers via many different subsidies end up paying for.

And regardless of what relative advantage your school may grant you immediately upon graduation, after a few years, if not a few months, it's all about what you're bringing to the workplace, not what sticker is gumming up your car's rear window. Which is a good thing all around.

Please feel free to forward this to my son.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, "The Case Against College Entitlements" released July 14, 2009:

NEXT: Sicko D̶o̶e̶s̶n̶'̶t̶ Does Meet Cuban Propaganda Standards

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  1. The ability effect strikes again!

  2. did note that kids from disadvanated families seemed to do better by going to elite schools rather than less-selective ones

    The Affirmative Action effect?

    Maybe once you’re the Affirmative Action Harvard student, you inevitably become the Affirmative Action Fortune 500 board member too?

    1. Whereas being the Affirmative Action student at a less selective institution means you just work for Prince George’s County in some capacity.

      1. Oh, so true!!!

        (Disclosure: My ex-GF works for PG county schools & I live in the next county over)

    2. Maybe. Some.

      And partially exposure to the culture of the ruling class.

      It is not enough to be polite, well-dressed, smart, and able.

      You have to polite in the way the big wigs are. Well-dressed by the exacting standards of rich people fashion. Able to express you smarts in the “right” ways. Possessed of the “right” non-verbals.

      If you never spent any time around the “right” people as a kid, you’ll have to learn all that at school. Go to the Ivy league and you get exposed to it 24/7. Go to a land-grant cow-college and you get roughly the same education, but barely ever meet anyone with the “right” moves.

      One prepares you for a job (even a good job) in the cubical farm, one for the corner office.

      1. “One prepares you for a job (even a good job) in the cubical farm, one for the corner office.”

        Alternatively, one prepares you to work for the elite, while the other prepares you to BE the elite.

      2. I doubt it’s so much the subtleties of behavior (I think most of that frou-frou which-fork-to-use and when-to-wear-white stuff went out in the ’60s) as simply networking — go to the Ivys and all your college buddies will be either connected “old money”, or smart and ambitious types likely to become “new money”, and that’s your pool of connections for future employment.

    3. Maybe once you’re the Affirmative Action Harvard student, you could inevitably become the Affirmative Action Fortune 500 board member President too?


      Yeah, I went there. . .

      1. Not a big deal. Obama was obviously an Affirmative Action student.

        He didn’t release his SAT scores for a reason.

  3. On a semi-related note, as it mentions that in some fields grad school matters, is this the first time in US history where the Supreme Court has been entirely Ivy League Law School graduates?

    With the retirement of Stevens (Northwestern), we are 9 for 9 (5 Harvard, 3 Yale, 1 Columbia).

    Huh…if the Columbia ED case had reached the Supremes, would Ginsburg have recused herself? Is being an alumni a conflict of interest?

  4. Hmm. Seems we missed both the Friday Funnies, and the Balko end-of-the-week nutpunch.

    Lemme help with that. Don’t drink and play with water nozzles in Long Beach

    As for the rest, I can’t draw worth shit.

    1. The part where they handcuffed the guy AFTER shooting him several times, including with a shotgun, they handcuffed him.

      1. Is an especially nice touch.

    2. Was just about to post that.

      Those cops should go to jail, but of course, they won’t, and it’s likely nothing will happen to them at all.

      1. For the rest of their lives they will have to live with the shame of two weeks unpaid leave.

        1. UNPAID? There’ll have to be a grievance filed over that.

      2. Just another “justified use of force” – nothing to see here

        1. The police rules of force are really based on the idea of “It’s better to overreact and kill and innocent person than to underreact and have an officer injured.”

          That has always seemed ass-backwards to me. Maybe it would make sense for the military who’s job it is to kill and break things, but the police are SUPPOSED to ‘protect and serve’.

          1. In one of the Bradley Manning threads this week some other military members and I mentioned that the military’s rules of engagement and risk management requirements mean that the police departments in America are more free to fire than Soldiers operating in a hostile environment.

            I’d also be willing to bet that a military investigation is more likely to find that a Soldier acted improperly and wrongly killed or injured a civilian than an investigation by police.

            1. Yep, I’ve also seen it remarked in other places that the ROE restrictions on US combat ops is much more restrictive than the standards used by most cops. Go and read Balko’s white paper on police militarization that he did for Cato – I think it contains the anecdotal report from Iraq that talked about Regular Army guys being absolutely appalled at the conduct of Reservists who, by the way, were cops in civilian life. Something is seriously fucked up when enemy combatants (using that in a Geneva Conventions context) in foreign lands are accorded better treatment than our own civilians are at home.

            2. As I know from experience in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and now Afghanistan, SFC B and Wind Rider are utterly wrong.

              1. In the Bradley Manning thread, both SFC B and Wind Rider cited examples for their claims. Other than giving us a pretty good example of the “Appeal to Authority” fallacy, were you planning on actually showing how they were utterly wrong?

          2. However, most people assume they are to “protect and serve” the general population. In reality their job is primarily to protect and serve the members of the government, which includes themselves.

    3. Well, in the cops’ defense, it does look like a pistol, especially in the heat of the moment, and if the lighting weren’t perfect.

      Now if the hose had still been attached….

      1. They would have post-humously cited him for possession of an illegal automatic weapon.

    4. This article is confusing.
      It says: “The officers had a position of cover and were observing the suspect while other officers were en route,” Then it goes on to say that he pointed the water nozzle at a police officer.

      Was he just randomly pointing it and the officer *thought* he was being targeted behind the bushes, or were the officers in plain view?

      Either way, it’s clear that the officers never spoke to the man about dropping the nozzle before they shot and handcuffed him. (I agree…a bit of overkill on that one)

      1. They handcuffed him so they could question him as to the whereabouts of the dog…. ya gotta be thorough in these situations..

  5. This is entirely consistent with my experience. I was planning on going to a certain top ten school for college but, after failing to get any scholarships, chose to pass on the $100k+ loans they offered me and instead go to a small liberal arts school that offered me a very generous scholarship. I had plenty of friends there who I would put up against any Ivy League grad (including a former roommate who would later win the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions). Two years after graduation, when I found myself at a top ten/top fifteen (depending on the year) law school littered with Ivy grads I found no substantive distinction between those with a fancy undergrad pedigree and folks like myself (other than that the Ivy League grads were more likely to come from money).

    1. Ditto except for law school. Went into industry – make tons o’ money – people who work for me went to the “big” schools. It’s all good.

      Yay, small, private liberal arts undergrad education!

    2. This was exactly my experience at Harvard Law in the late ’80s.

      You could pick out the Ivy League undergrads there by their massive, throbbing egos and snotty attitudes. As far as ability and performance went, I daresay they were underrepresented in the top tier.

      1. “massive, throbbing egos and snotty attitudes”

        Somewhere, Tony is cleaning his own jizz off his forehead after reading this…

    3. This was exactly my experience at Harvard Law in the late ’80s.

      You could pick out the Ivy League undergrads there by their massive, throbbing egos and snotty attitudes. As far as ability and performance went, I daresay they were underrepresented in the top tier.

    4. Yeah, I can say the same thing of banking. Heck, there’s a documented Harvard MBA effect in finance, where a higher percentage of the graduating class entering finance indicates stocks are overpriced.

      I went to a big state school (for a variety of reasons, and it was absolutely the right decision), and if anything, I’d say the chip on my shoulder is a net benefit. It’s good to get rid of that coping mechanism (“well, at least I graduated such-and-such”).

      Heck, I just checked the corporate governance section of my old employers’ websites. There are literally no Ivy alums, undergrad or grad, who are current executive officers. A Hahvahd diploma will get your foot in the door, but it’s not a ticket to the top.

      As to Fluffy’s comment, I think that’s also a possible explanation for the disadvantaged student effect. They may be excellent thinkers and workers but less likely to receive the same opportunities. A big-name school will help get that interview or entry-level job, and once given the chance, they’re more likely to excel. I’m a little more optimistic — and impressed with my own co-workers who came from war-torn parts of the Soviet bloc or Africa, grew up in the inner city, etc. — to believe it’s just due to affirmative action. AA may affect a few highly visible positions at the dumber companies out there, but at least anecdotally I haven’t seen it work that way for entry- or mid-level (i.e. most) promotions.

  6. Anecdote: I know that the companies I am interested in (aerospace field) wouldn’t even give me an interview despite my magna cum laude BSME from UVM. About a month into my Cornell master’s I had an interview with JPL.

    1. Now that is a sad statement on the aerospace industry. They’re not even self-aware. In most engineering fields, it takes years of OJT in order to even be productive. Where you went to school is not nearly as important as understanding basic concepts and willingness to continue your self-education during your employment.

      1. The HR department that is the first level filter is probably not aware of that.

        1. It’s probably a good rule of thumb to consider that most HR departments are unaware of anything except quitting time and paid holidays.

    2. I was hired by Lockheed Martin straight out of a state school. And a lightly-regarded state school at that. Didn’t hurt my career there and they were pretty sad to see me go. Another side note, I’ve hired a UVM grad – seems pretty competent to me.

      1. I’m not saying the prestige of school has affected my ability to do the job. I’m saying it’s affected my ability to get the job.

        1. Specifically, getting the first interview.

  7. While it may be in the underlying data somewhere, it seems to me that what is not addressed in these studies is the distinction between whether the elite schools provide any actual value added in the educational service they perform as opposed to simply providing an “association” value to anyone who is able, by merit or legacy, to go to such schools. It has been my personal experience in hiring and observing that at least in terms of undergraduate training, the elite school graduates do no better, and often worse, in performance than non-elite school graduates of similar rated capability (test scores, etc.). This fits with my theoretical (admittedly) belief that almost by definition, the “teaching” quality of elite schools is far less at the undergraduate level than the best public schools and what I will call the “non elite” but still highly rated small liberal arts colleges, where teaching is the focus, and not research and graduate competition. It is definitely my experience that once you are at a school that meets a certain critical mass of capability and quality of teaching, it is what you do with the opportunity, not what the school offers you in terms of affiliation value. Human nature being what it is, though unfortunate, we cannot escape the “celebrity” value added aspect of having gone to an elite school merely for the association, but we should be willing to call it what it is – undeserved and illegitimate.

    1. I agree, HD. To the extent there is any value-added from an elite school, it almost certainly has nothing to do with a secret special sauce they add to their chemistry curriculum, or the elite wordsmithing of their writing instructor. It has everything to do with the fact that the kid sitting next to you probably has a rich mommy and daddy, and is much more likely than the norm to be someone of influence in the future. When you go to an elite school, you are buying connections, not an education.

      1. Chad’s bitter because Wesleyan turned him down.

        1. But I understand the ITT Tech has an open invitation

          1. I should be offended by this, but I have thick skin. I have a two year degree from there.

            My student loans are paid off. I have a good paying job in aerospace. When I first started school there we had probably 40 students, and the last quarter had eight. IOW, lots of people could not hack it.

            1. Hey, buddy, did you get your associate’s degree from a top school like ITT? Did they teach you how to use free open source software? Did you like that?

              (just kidding–you said you have thick skin, and a coworker of mine has a degree from ITT and we make fun of him mercilessly for it)

              1. My first attempt at college was a disaster. I wasn’t ready for it. I went to New Mexico State, lived on campus, and had all my meals paid for. And there were girls everywhere. My studies were immediately put aside to get laid – a lot. So that was fun, but it was also an expensive life lesson. By the time I started at ITT I was ready to study for a real job. And it was cheaper and more realistic than making another try at a real school.

                And btw, Chad would get swirlied on a daily basis even at a geek pile like that place.

              2. Methinks the graduates from ITT and DeVry may laugh last. When I worked for a top Silicon Valley company in the 1980s and 1990s, you didn’t last in the job by relying who you knew — that might help you get the next job, after the first guys politely let you go during one of the frequent layoffs — you relied on WHAT you knew. And the DeVry guys knew their stuff. I don’t know anything about ITT and the quality of their graduates, but it may be a similar story. I wouldn’t advise selling ’em short.

                1. When it comes to software, I don’t give a shit what your degree is or where you went to school (unless you have a PhD in Computer Science). My coworker with his (self-admitted) worthless ITT degree is a really good natural coder, for instance.

                  1. I also keeed about ITT and DeVry – one of the best enrg supvrs/now mgrs I work(ed) with went to ITT – he was in one of their “success story” commercials a while back.

                    But they are fun alma maters with which to abuse co-workers and friends, so….

                    1. To be sure, I don’t have their sticker on my car. But I would recommend the school to anyone that cares more about a career than a piece of paper.
                      OT, I’ve been doing most of these comments from my new Droid. I love this thing.

        2. Funny that Chad derides the very sources which provide people like [insert most Democrat politicians here]…

          Meh. Wealth-envy always wins out over logic.

          1. HA! Never thought of it like that

  8. Tuitions are out of control, period. Universities are getting fat on bonds, fed grants, state grants, etc… and yet they still raise tuition more and more while constructing new and fancier buildings (were the old ones unoccupiable?).

    Add to that, the level of control the typical university demands over student life now is obscene. It was bad enough in ’88, but now they aren’t content unless you are transformed into a walking talking replica of the Head of Student Life.

    What happened to university as an endeavor to become more self-directed and inquisitive? Why is Calc III four times more expensive now than it was twenty years ago? I don’t think Newton has changed much since then.

    Mostly, I think universities are overfunded and have gotten way too big for their britches.

  9. Among Software Engineers, a prestigious diploma might help you get an interview. It won’t get you a job.

    1. Or keep one.

  10. They could have just compared IQ to money but that would be a little crass.

  11. This is pretty old news. They’ve found that people admitted to Harvard do equally well whether they go to Harvard or Big State U. Harvard isn’t particularly good at teaching, it’s good at filtering.

    1. Its not that Harvard is particular good at filtering either, they are just able to filter.

      Want to filter better, ratchet up your SAT minimum by 100 points. Congrats, you filtered better. State schools cant easily do that, as they have numbers to fill, so its up to the elites, who get way more applicants than they want, to do it.

      The introduction of the Hope Scholarship in Georgia means that lots of top tier students who used to go out of state to fancy schools, now stay in state. Georgia Tech is harder to get into that when I was accepted in 1987. And, even more so, the average SAT scores of U (sic) of Georgia students is WAY up.

      GT wasnt affected as much as in-state top tier engineering/science students were generally going there anyway, but it has drawn some away from MIT/Cal Tech/etc. However, UGA is getting lots of kids that previously were going to liberal arts schools and Ivys and etc.

      Also, in many cases Daddy is passing along that money he saved up for tuition to the kids as a staying home bonus. Fake breasts are referred to as “Hope Scholarships” in Athens.

      1. Fake breasts are referred to as “Hope Scholarships” in Athens.

        How ’bout them Dawgs!

          1. We don’t judge.

  12. it’s all about what you’re bringing to the workplace, not what sticker is gumming up your car’s rear window

    I once bought my friend the following “university” sticker:


    I picked it from amongst:



    And when it comes to going to an “elite” school, I will just say (and this bolsters Mo’s point above) that Johns Hopkins specifically picked people that it could put through the ringer. Because if you graduate from Hopkins with a high GPA, any prospective employer knows that you can take a beating and keep on ticking, and that you can work like a dog. And that means a lot to them.

    1. Clever. Why didn’t you just get him one that says “I’d rather be driving”?

      1. Well, he was in the Navy.

        1. Oh. Poor guy.

    2. Prospective Employers look for people who will kiss ass and work unpaid overtime.

  13. Disadvantaged kids would – I believe – do better in a higher ranking school due to the atmosphere of higher expectations. There’s a bit of research out there showing that kids tend to live up to what their parents expect. If bringing home a D is okay, that’s what they’ll bring home. If it doesn’t matter at all to mom and dad, it won’t matter to little Johnny. And vice versa.

    So even a self-starter from a disadvantaged home will do better with that higher expectation atmosphere as opposed to being surrounded by 70k slackers at Arizona State.

    I’m encouraging my 9 year old son to aim for the Ivy League just to keep his goals high. Don’t know if we’ll carry through with it, but if he’s prepared for Yale, and chooses something else then all is well. If he’s only prepared for ASU, then shame on me, and woe for him.

    1. +1000. I’m doing the same with/for mine.

    2. It’s true. You learn to expect more and want more. You get exposed to people who are used to success.

  14. And Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal moves forward, 63-33.

    The Democratic leadership is so stupid. They not only had the votes all year to repeal this, but it gets 60-80% support in all polls. But instead of pushing for it before the election, and thus splitting the GOP base from Independents, they decide to only focus on Obamacare and enormous spending bills.

    1. And then they started out the lame duck session insisting on attaching DADT repeal to spending bills, but refusing to allow other (even more germane) amendments. And then Leader Reid tried to move on it before the tax deal passed, despite the GOP statement.

      What an amazing clusterfuck of incompetence on the Democratic side. At least it finally passed.

  15. The Dale and Krueger paper has two faults in it that produces a different conclusion. It ranks the colleges by the averages of the SAT of the students, when in real-life the selectivity of colleges is based on prestige. When you do that, the income gap from the prestige universities shows up.

    Second, the average income peaks at 1100 SAT score and levels off, so smarter people don’t necessarily make more money.

    In short, an athletic kid with average intelligence who goes to Stanford will make more money than a kid with perfect SAT that goes to his local directional college. But we knew that, right?

    1. They also do not take into account WHERE you will make that money.

      Want to wind up at the highest levels of government? Study at the Ivy League and then Intern at RAND.

  16. I’d imagine the data is fairly spiky across professions. For instance, students from non-ivy or similarly prestigious (University of Michigan, Northwestern, etc) schools simply won’t ever get an interview with high-paying firms in certain sectors.

    Management consulting, tax advising, economic analysis and top engineering firms don’t even look at people from state schools regardless of how well they actually did there; it’s all about the school you went to.

    Now, that’s not to say that public school graduates don’t get good jobs with the General Electrics or the pharmaceutical companies or at other companies, but entire sectors are for all intents and purposes closed off to them unless they get a grad degree at a more prestigious institution.

    1. top engineering firms don’t even look at people from state schools

      Considering some of the top engineering schools ARE state schools, have to disagree.

      For example, for Industrial Engineering the top 3 grad schools (USN≀) are Georgia Tech (state school), Michigan (state school), and Cal-Berkeley (state school).

      In almost any engineering disciple, at least 5 of the top 10 schools are state schools. I cant imagine grads from those schools not getting interviews/hired with top engineering firms.

      1. At an extreme, in civil engineering, 7 of the top 9 grad schools are state schools, only Stanford and MIT bust the list, and they arent that high on it (Stanford tied for 3, MIT 7).

      2. Checked undergrad engineering rankings too…very similar story (although lists are slightly different).

    2. AFAICT, my engineering degree from a state school closed off nothing.

      1. BTW, not disagreeing with your point, disagreeing with engineering being in your list.

        The post above on schools of Supreme Court Justices proves your point.

        1. Basically, if you want a job where performance is easily measured like engineering or science, what matters is the results of your work. If you want a job as a bullshit artist aka management consulting then connections and ass kissing matter.

          1. Have you ever done any management consulting?

          2. I would simplify things and just say that in professions where aptitude isn’t easily signaled by grades, undergrads from state schools will be at a disadvantage. And given that a number of those, like consulting and finance, are among the higher-paying professions new college grads can get into, I still think that some of the top-echelon careers are at least initially closed off to these students.

            1. The finance jobs that come through the actuarial route, on the other hand, it really doesn’t matter much where you went to school, since it’s all about passing exams.

            2. This is true to some extent in finance, insofar as the Ivies have an advantage. But there are a lot of good public/non-Ivy private business school programs out there, especially undergrad. At the graduate level, finance hiring is so huge that it doesn’t matter. If you’re a top candidate from a top 25 MBA school, you have a lot of opportunities.

              And recruiters visit a lot of campuses. Every major bank was represented at my large state school, for instance.

      2. I’d agree with that. I’m a BSEE from Washington University in St. Louis, and I work around guys and gals who are state school engineering grads, and they’re fine, and one of them is from a tiny state school in NW Missouri and a fucking genius. WUSTL is about $50k a year, all-inclusive, state schools around $15k.

        I’d like to send my kids to my alma-mater, but it’s just not worth the price.

    3. “Management consulting, tax advising, economic analysis and top engineering firms don’t even look at people from state schools”

      I’m at a state school right now (Michigan). McKinsey, Deloitte, BCG, and the like all did recruiting here, and I know several people who are going to work for one of them next year. Same goes for tax advising. In economic analysis, the most prestigious employer is the Fed, and I’m pretty sure they’re not allowed to discriminate like that based on undergrad institution. At any rate, a number of Michigan PhDs work for the Fed, so it’s unlikely they’d refuse to look at applications from UM students. I’m less familiar with engineering, but I do know that Google and Microsoft both recruit and hire from here.

      1. Note that I specifically excluded particular schools that might as well be private schools, given their reputation. Michigan and Northwestern fall into this category. That other school down the road from you, however, does not benefit from McKinsey or Accenture or Goldman Sachs recruiting. Ernst and Young, Deloitte, all the top firms for new graduates, they don’t give nearly the sort of time to an MSU or Northern Illinois grad as they would to a UM or Northwestern kid, grades be damned.

        Also, Michigan may not be a public school even in name much longer. Proposals are on the table to remove its public funding and essentially turn it into a private school.

        1. First of all Northwestern IS a private school despite being in the Big 10 (like Stanford in the Pac 10).

          And Michigan State’s business school, at this point, is top-20 undergrad program. Overall MSU makes lists of top 100 world universities. It’s not a public ivy like Michigan is, but it’s a major research university–in a different category than places like Northern Illinois. (I say this, BTW, as a UM grad living in Ann Arbor).

          The advice I gave my kid choosing between public and private was if you are sure you’re going into a high-paid profession, go private and borrow the extra money — paying it off won’t be a problem. But if you’re not sure, go public. You don’t want to spend you 20s and part of your 30s as an indentured servant. She went to state school, will graduate with no loan debt at all, and is probably headed for the non-profit sector, so for her it was the right call.

  17. Assuming the ability to go back in time 30 years, if I were interested in a career that valued connections, I would try to get into an “elite” school. If my career path rewarded competence, I would get credentialed as cheaply as possible.

    1. Of course it’s hard to know at 18 which careers will value connections over competence. I know a corporate officer of a Fortune 500 firm who told me that his company recruited MBAs from only seven schools: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Wharton, Purdue, Chicago & Northwestern.

      He meant recruiting when he and others at his level were hiring. Lower levels of the company would recruit elsewhere but it’s still an odd mix of competence and connections. There are some really good business schools that aren’t on that list.

  18. I guess you can define the elite colleges according to rankings, but there are plenty average to slightly above average schools that cost a lot of money and do not have stringent admission standards at all.

    For example, the College of New Jersey is a public school (though it has the perception of a private) which has much more stringent admission standards than Rutgers or a Seton Hall (not bad schools, but what one wouldn’t deem elite) yet costs only $1,000 more than Rutgers in-state. Granted, the out-of-state gets a little screwy, but elite is all relative especially in regard to individual majors. Fuck, I remember reading that one of the best undergraduate French programs in the US is at Indiana University.

    Basically, if you have the scores and the motivation to do well it really doesn’t matter where you go I think.

  19. As a big state school grad with a decade-plus under my belt of hiring folks from every possible background (including no college sheepskin at all!)

    Such as a certain pimply, rodentophilic Northwestern grad who shall remain nameless.

  20. …Individuals are products of institutions!

  21. RAND should do a study of the success rates of people who have worked at RAND at some point in their career.

    I’d like to see how that fit’s in with your Post-War Commie conspiracy!

  22. DADT repealed 65-31 in the Senate.

    1. Fantastic news!

      It appears 8 GOPers and all but one Dem finally did the right thing here!

    2. Just what we need, Marines having butt sex.

      1. Tulpa the Marines do have a historical association with the Navy.

        1. The Marines are under the control of the Dept of the Navy.

      2. Just wait till the butts start showing up on leaky cables.

  23. Excellent article. Though you did misspell disadvantaged.

  24. I didn’t know anything useful andwas useless for the workforce until I started working. Also, I’ve never learned so much meaningful information so quickly as when I took classes to get my realtors license. Also, homework is useless torture. I work now, and early on in my wworking life I’ve even done brutal physical labor in blaring summer heat, and I still don’t think tjere’s snything worse than homework. Homework shoildn’t

    1. Be/ isn’t necessary to teach anyone something. A good chunk of the young people I know, all of whom went to private high schools and are going to or graduated from college, are retarded. I’ve had amazing difficulty explaining simple concepts to them – one girl had amazing trouble understanding grafting (gardening), and another was getting confused when I waz trying to explain basic house-building concepts like zoning codes and pricer per square foot.

      1. *the signifigance of the realtor comment is that it’s a short class that doesn’t hold any of the prestige of “higher”, classical education

  25. More retardation from our current system- “whole word” reading. WTF is this shit. They’re actually trying to ignore something that’s FACTUALLY true- letters represent sounds. THAT’S WHAT THEY DO. If you haven’t taught a child phonetically, you literally have not taught him to read. Reading “phonetically” is what reading is. You need to be able to read words that you haven’t seen before.

    1. It’s true that we learn to read phonetically (and should keep teaching kids the same way), but adults read based on word shape. That’s why you can read English much faster than Spanish (where words are entirely phonetic), and why you can understand this:

      Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

      What makes things more difficult is that, even being conservative, about 15% of English words are not phonetic.

  26. Computer Science Degree
    State School(U Illinois)-approx.$46,000
    Carnegie Mellon U. – approx. $55,000
    Unless there are handouts involved, often the difference can be smaller than one might hope, making it worth going the upper route, even if for small class size and initial job interviews alone.

    1. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, you might get a four-year degree from Carnegie Mellon for $55,000. Have you priced it lately?

      1. My account seems to be gone, but this is still JD. Yes, my son is currently attending CMU. I was quoting the yearly cost, not the total for a four year program.

  27. More student loans and deficit, and after graduation, you’ll still be unemployed?..
    We help Americans find jobs and prosperity in Asia. Visit for details.

  28. “Let me tell you about the very educated. They are different from you and me.”

    “Yes, they have more education.”

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  30. Going to an Elite College Won’t Get You More Money; Being Good Enough to Get Accepted at One Will May.

    At this point, being book-smart may or may not get you money.

    Being born to wealthy parents WILL.

  31. Here’s another take on the Dale & Krueger 1999 study. He comes to the exact opposite conclusion:

    My personal opinion is that even after equalizing SAT score and class rank, students who choose to attend a Harvard or Princeton are more likely to exhibit certain traits than those who are accepted but choose not to attend. Namely:

    1. They likely favor certain careers at a higher rate than do than non-attenders (e.g. “hedge fund manager” as opposed to “elementary school teacher”), and

    2. they place more value on wealth and status, as evidenced by their choice to attend the elite school, which influences how they approach their career post-graduation.

    I would be interested to see a similar study focusing on a single career track. Maybe “electrical engineer working in industry”. Take two guys with equal SAT and class rank, both of whom were admitted to MIT. One of them goes to a “good” state school (e.g. Georgia Tech, Illinois, Michigan, etc.) instead. What are his projected earnings relative to his statistical clone who attended MIT, assuming both go directly into industry after graduation?

    One other thought: graduates often get jobs in the same general area of the school they attended. This is probably more true for state schools than for elite private schools. Elite private schools are, for the most part, located in parts of the country with high cost-of-living, whereas state schools often aren’t. If the state school attendees are getting jobs near their school, then their salaries may be lower simply because of where they’re located. Stanford CS guy gets a job in the Valley vs. Univ. of Texas guy working in Austin. Valley guy will earn ~20% more more even if he’s doing the exact same job for the exact same company.

    This question is even more complicated when graduate school is considered. Say I’m a student who was admitted to Harvard and the University of Texas, and I plan to eventually attend law school. Does a B.A. from UT limit the law schools I can get into given my grades at UT are going to be better than at Harvard? Assuming equivalent LSAT scores, extracurricular activities and recommendations, does a 4.0 from UT look that much worse than a 3.5 from Harvard? Or if there is a difference, is it big enough to justify the $200,000 premium for a Harvard B.A.?

  32. The top performers in academic fields get funding for their PhD studies. That would reduce the incentive to attend a less prestigious university, to say the least.

    I can also speculate that students from weaker academic families would benefit from the “failure is not an option” environment of an ivy league, as opposed to the state school that might offer equal parts of top quality education, and examples of drop outs.

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