Relative Value of Elite College Education?

What is the value of attending an “elite” college? This article in The Atlantic is almost two years old, and most of us, somewhere in the back of our minds, know the key messages.  But I ran across it today and am incorporating several of the key takeaways into my thinking about the future of education; the data, gathered and published by The Chronicle of Higher Education, are just too compelling to set on the back burner.

A broad study of employers from across multiple sectors shows that when hiring recent graduates, where a student went to college is WAY down on the list in terms of hiring decisions.  The top indicators of employer interest are internships and work experience.

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Does this mean that going to Harvard or Stanford does not provide advantages to the individual graduate?  Of course not.  But, as the article points out, the combined population of graduates from the “top 20” colleges and universities in the country represent only 1% of the total higher education population.  

What a student does with her education is VASTLY more important than the name on the diploma. I made this argument to my own son when he was looking at colleges: go to a school that, if you work hard and do well, prepares you for future options, including graduate schools, while incurring the lowest amount of debt possible.  He did just that: went to a respected but non-“elite” college, got the internships and opportunities…and was accepted at Stanford for his PhD over a number of candidates who attended the Ivies, etc. I use the graduate school example for a reason: many grad schools look at applicants much like an employer: who do we want on our team and what skills do they have to contribute to our overall product?

We could all do a much better job of educating our community stakeholders to this simple truth, and take much of the dangerously high stress levels out of the college admission process.

One thought on “Relative Value of Elite College Education?

  1. Mark Crotty

    Grant,

    Agree completely with your thoughts–as usual. I think another big factor is in play here, what I call the bumper-sticker mentality. For many people I think that what sticker they can place on the car is a giant factor because of the prestige they associate with it.

    Reply

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