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The answer depends on the reason one chooses to attend college in the first place. If the goal is to acquire a solid grounding in literature, philosophy, theology, history, the fine arts, and the natural sciences (the stuff of a traditional liberal education), one should select a school that excels at offering this type of education. Of the few such schools that still exist, only a couple are “top private colleges” (such as U of Chicago) while others are less elite privates (such as Hillsdale and the two St. John’s campuses). I think it’s almost impossible to put a dollar value on this type of education.
If, on the other hand, the goal is simply to acquire the type of vocational training that provides an entry into the professional-managerial class, then almost any accredited college will do. However, the “top private” ones may indeed be worth their higher cost because of the elite networking and signaling advantages they offer.
Most of the brilliant decisions made on behalf of the US Government’s taxpayers are the product of young minds nurtured at the finest Ivy League universities, primarily Harvard.
Probably no other than helping you be part of a network that could yield long-term benefits. I never had to get into debt to attend a private college.
Only if your Rolodex is stout. (Google it, kids)
An Ivy-league degree is great, but you have to leverage it by knowing industry moguls who might have graduated from the same school. Without the social connections, it’s probably not worth it (depending on the financial aid which I think averages about 50%).
A degree from a solid in-state school while making connections through clubs and internships is a fine way to go, and often much cheaper.
You can even go the ultra-thrifty route and do your first 2 years at a Community College. There might be more financial aid for that option in the coming years, too.
If you have the funds and the student knows what they are getting into, it could be worth it to go to an elite school. Otherwise, probably not worth it.
Just as with income and wealth, there is a difference between the elite private colleges and the elite private colleges. There are (a very few select) firms that will consider graduates only from H, Y, and P (and Stanford and, for the “techier” disciplines, MIT). The rest are elite, sure – but not elite enough. Think of it in this way: each of these places takes in around 1500-2000 students. By the time you have gone through all of them, you are talking about picking up the approximately 10,000th student in the country (I am speaking very broadly – of course there are many, many brilliant students coming out of every college across the country, but from an employer’s point of view, the signal difference is palpable until proven otherwise). Which, from an employer’s point of view, does not look very selective.
But then again, As Dick Quinn pointed out, all this difference can lead to more open doors. It is entirely up to you what you do thereafter.
This is a challenging question. My oldest son went to an Ivy league school. It helped him get an internship, and first job. Since then he has done quite well based on his performance. My younger son went to a highly regarded state school that had a great program in his chosen field, IT. It helped get his first jib, but he has done quite well based on his performance. So I agree with Dick Quinn – your school may open doors, but its up to you thereafter.
Where you went to college and how well you did there are only partially meaningful when getting your first job. A month later it’s all up to the individual.
I highly suggest reading Ron Lieber’s new book, The Price You Pay for College. I just finished reading it, and it was a wealth of education. There is so much that is buried and not talked about when it comes to making this type of financial decision. Lieber’s book sheds light on the best research there is to answer specific questions that are right for your child and your family situation.
The studies attempting to answer this question that I’ve seen suggest that elite colleges may confer a small earnings benefit to certain subgroups (see studies 1 and 2). But the average student probably stands to benefit as much from far less selective and costly universities. I suspect the primary advantage of attending an uber elite college comes from the networking opportunities it brings, as well as the signaling value of the elite degree.
Anecdotally, for me there was no benefit to going to a private college over a public one. I attended a top 30 public college for undergrad and am currently at a top 20 private college for grad school. Perhaps things are different at the most elite institutions (Ivy League, MIT, Caltech, UChicago, Stanford), but I do not feel that the quality of my coursework or training at the private college is any greater than it was at the public one.
I think a top 10 school probably does merit a small tuition premium over lower-ranked schools. But if the choice is between a private college ranked outside the top 10 that costs >$50,000/year vs. a reputable public college that’s <$20,000/year, I would pick the public college every time. And a student that can gain admission to a top 10 school can probably earn a full-ride scholarship at top public schools or mid-ranked private ones. In my humble opinion, no degree is worth accruing a mountain of debt.
This is an interesting topic for me. I’m the product of a public system of higher education but have spent 23 years working at an elite private college. There are trade-offs and benefits to each types of education. Public colleges are typically less expensive but private schools usually offer a lot more financial aid. The overall cost, depending on how much aid the private school offers, may not be too different between the two.
The two primary benefits I see with private schools are: 1) smaller class size and 2) more opportunities for networking.
At the college I work at, classes are only taught by PhD’s. There are no graduate assistants or other types of student teachers. Our hand-on laboratory classes are limited to no more than 24 students and most of them have between 8 and 18 students in them. That’s a whole lot more personal attention the students get as compared to state schools where lab classes may have 40 or more students in them.
Smaller private schools tend to develop a very loyal set of alumni who not only contribute to the school financially, but who also tend to want to hire graduates from the same school. Many of our recent graduates have employment opportunities that might not be available to graduates from other colleges.
As an educator, my general response is “no” if that factor is isolated by itself. I have counseled many kids about going to college, and the key is to not try to make the kid right right for acceptance to a TPC, but to find a school that’s right for the student. That includes factors of location, demographics, and programs available (not to mention the student’s personality and desires). One might get a leading professor in a field in a TPC, or one might get a TA the whole time while that leader works on their latest book. Some professions need a TPC (apparently one needs to go to Yale or Harvard to be on the Supreme Court for the most part, unfortunately), and for some there are family legacy issues. All of these need to be considered. One personal example: I went to a TPC for law school outside of Texas, and when I applied for jobs here, many firms were interested, but several said they preferred someone who went to a Texas law school and had already made connections with fellow Texas lawyers in their class.