Many articles in the New York Times including this one tends to put politically correct information in the first part of the article which many read, but may miss the real meat of the article towards the end as I found with Steinberg’s article. Many times this is the fault of the editors and not the reporter.
A much more honest description of the elite colleges is included in the book by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, a husband and wife team who spent a lifetime looking into the effectiveness of education. Higher Education? How Colleges are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids--And What We Can Do About It, Holt 2010. Here is a Google Books link which gives us the actual text of the book http://books.google.com/books?id=RHdjkV-XqcQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=dreifus+hacker&source=bl&ots=PfuHTyX4c6&sig=BgOUlyF0q22y9b0ePvYy_8uKU3E&hl=en&ei=OHkOTfaWCIaWsgO2tYyfCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CD8Q6AEwBg#v=onepage&q&f=false If this link does not work, just google Hacker Dreifus.
Hacker and Dreifus reminds us that the teaching sucks at these elite colleges because they are taught by either graduate students or underpaid adjunct professors who teach at different colleges to make ends meet. Sometimes as much as half the professors are also on sabbaticals at once. Professors at these colleges do not want to teach and if they teach, teach badly. Hacker called them elitists and dishonest in starting a business on their research on government grant money. www.nybooks.com and www.c-span.org www.booktv.org
Many at Harvard don’t attend classes because it is usually a waste of time. Bill Clinton even missed most of the classes at Yale Law school and had to be tutored by Hillary to pass the tests and law exams.
The prep schools which many of these students attend prepares them very well so they are not hurt as badly as those coming from lesser high schools. I know from friends that the preppies can write essays while drunk while my friends had to work hard to get an A before grade inflation.
Jim Kawakami, Dec 19, 2010, http://jimboguy.blogspot.com
Elite Colleges Worth It? Jacques Steinberg, NY Times, NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/weekinreview/19steinberg.html?_r=1&ref=general&src=me&pagewanted=all Excerpt Last Part of Article: … 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. (The one exception was that children from “disadvantaged family backgrounds” appeared to earn more over time if they attended more selective colleges. The authors, Stacy Berg Dale and Alan B. Krueger, do not speculate why, but conclude, “These students appear to benefit most from attending a more elite college.”)
Earnings, of course, and even graduate school attendance, are but two of many measurements of graduates’ success post-college.
Earlier this year, two labor and education professors from Penn State, along with a sociologist from Claremont Graduate University in California, sought to examine whether graduates from elite colleges were, in general, more satisfied in their work than those who attended less prestigious institutions.
Writing in April in the Journal of Labor Research, the three researchers argued that “an exclusive focus on the economic outcomes of college graduation, and from prestigious colleges in particular, neglects a host of other employment features.”
Mining a sample of nearly 5,000 recipients of bachelor’s degrees in 1992 and 1993, who were then tracked for nearly a decade, the authors concluded that “job satisfaction decreases slightly as college selectivity moves up.” One hypothesis by the authors was that the expectations of elite college graduates — especially when it came to earnings — might have been higher, and thus more subject to disappointment, than the expectations of those who graduated from less competitive colleges.
Still, 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?”
His answer was one he said he knew families would find maddening: “It depends.”
For example, someone who knew he needed to earn a reliable salary immediately after graduation, and as a result chose to study something practical like business or engineering, might find the cost-benefit analysis tilted in favor of a state school, he said.
“Students from less affluent backgrounds are going to find themselves in situations where college is less about ‘finding themselves,’ and more about skills acquisition and making contacts that will lead straight into the labor market,” Mr. Thomas said. For such a student, he said, a state university, particularly a big one, may also have a large, passionate alumni body. It, in turn, may play a disproportionate role in deciding who gets which jobs in a state in a variety of fields — an old-boy (and increasingly old-girl) network that may be less impressed with a job applicant’s Ivy league pedigree.
“If you’ve attended a big state school with a tremendous football program,” Mr. Thomas said, “there’s tremendous affinity and good will — whether or not you had anything to do with the football program.”
In the end, some researchers echo that tried-and-perhaps-even-true wisdom of guidance counselors: the extent to which one takes advantage of the educational offerings of an institution may be more important, in the long run, than how prominently and proudly that institution’s name is being displayed on the back windows of cars in the nation’s wealthiest enclaves.
In this analysis, one’s major — and how it aligns with the departmental strengths of a university — may be more significant than the place in the academic pecking order awarded to that college by the statisticians at U.S. News.
“Everything we know from studying college student experiences and outcomes tells us that there is more variability within schools than between them,” said Alexander C. McCormick, a former admissions officer at his alma mater, Dartmouth College, and now an associate professor of education at Indiana University at Bloomington.
“This is the irony, given the dominance of the rankings mentality of who’s No. 5 or No. 50,” Professor McCormick added. “The quality of that biology major offered at School No. 50? It may exceed that at School No. 5.” …