Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ivy league college bubble bust

John Wasik, author of a new book, The Audacity of Help: Obama's Economic Plan and the Remaking of America has a good article at Bloomberg news up today on the Ivy League college bubble:

A high-priced college may not be worth the price of admission.

As the economy forces more students out of the classroom and graduates into under- or unemployment, a college enrollment bubble may be starting to deflate.

The recession, combined with rising college costs, has accelerated a college affordability crunch that is exacerbated by shrinking family incomes, diminished home equity and reduced household wealth.

As many as one-third of all private colleges surveyed by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities said they expected enrollment to drop in the next academic year.

The author has some good advice for those who will be going to college during this bubble:

If you are planning ahead, an even more important number to watch is the rate of tuition increase, which has averaged 7.3 percent annually for state universities over the past half- decade. Your college-savings portfolio rate of return will need to match or beat that number if you are going to keep up with the cost of college -- no easy feat over the last few years.

You would be particularly challenged to match the tuition increases in Hawaii and Kentucky, which have averaged more than 12 percent over that period.

An even simpler approach is to shop for a lower-priced college, search for grants and limit your debt as much as possible. That way, even if the job market is sour upon graduation, it will be less of a financial burden while you wait until all of the other financial bubbles have fully deflated.


Blogger Ken said...

My institution has frozen tuition for this year, at least. It's going to be an interesting few years.

11:50 AM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend of mine recently went on a quasi-blind date with a woman who had gone to an ivy league school and (I think) had a Master's.

Her subject area was cross-disciplinary sociological something-or-other with a dash of women's studies thrown in.

She is now in the unenviable situation of having WELL OVER $100,000 in student loan debt and not much on the horizon in terms of a job. My buddy (who has some bucks) could just feel the desperation - her new secret plan, apparently, was to find Mr. Big Bucks and extinguish the debt that way.

11:55 AM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

As college costs escalate the dynamic of the college experience changes. No longer are you getting the best and the brightest, but the best and the brightest who's parents can afford to send their kids to college. This narrows the pool considerably.

Fancy college diplomas might help in certain career fields. I'm sure it does in the banking industry. However, let's say you want to be an actuary or a lawyer. Those potential employees and grad school applicants get weeded out by a test at the end, and a degree from a fancy school may not help you if you don't score well.

Think about it further, if you go to a fancy school where all the other students are from a certain economic strata, how much are you going to learn from your classmates? How is this going to impact your classes? You will have a diminished diversity when it comes to friends. Let's face it, you meet one upper middleclass kid from the burbs you've pretty much met them all.

The universities end up spitting out interchangeable robots at the end. Employers know this, and if this is the type of person that the employer wants then great. But if, as in my field, an employer wants an aggressive pit bull who can make a profit and close deals at the end of the month, this type of cookie cutter college grad may not be what they are looking for. The employers are going to get what they need, and they may be open to searching elsewhere to find appropriate candidates for positions.

12:05 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Joe said...

NPR had a segment the other day of a women with a masters in writing whining about how she couldn't find a job. What killed me was that the only place she was applying for work were the coasts. There is work here in middle America and it consists of damn fine places to live.

Of course she won't make that grand salary she's likely convinced herself she's worth (and needs to pay off her student loans.)

12:07 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

There are still some really good bargains out there for learning, they just don't come with impressive names attached to them. To cite one example, I have one young friend who is currently taking a full load of pre-engineering courses at Camden County College (Camden County, NJ), for the princely sum of $2k per semester. This is non-residential, so this is just tuition and fees, but that is still an awfully good buy for a school with excellent facilities and dedicated faculty. It is only a 2 year school, but that is a cheap start to say the least, provided that it is learning that you want, rather than a big name diploma. I'm sure that there are other similar schools around the country.

Having worked as a college professor and also as an industrial researcher, I have to say that I could never see that the graduates of the big name schools were a bit better than those from the state universities. It is so strongly dependent on the individual, that the choice of school really only affects the cost but not the outcome for the most part. In my last industrial position, my office mate was a PhD from Brown, and he was quite good, but I have had equally good colleagues from state universities as well.

I think the high dollar private schools are vastly over rated, and it would be a boon to education to seem them taken down about thee notches. Perhaps they might return to their original mission of education, rather than their current pursuit of money. (By the way, I have taught at both public and private schools, so I am not just supporting the only side I know. Generally, private schools are a rip-off. They cannot afford to maintain academic integrity.)

12:27 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger jfwasik said...

What I didn't say in the piece was that colleges tend to be overbranded and people overvalue the various college rankings. It's awfully difficult to measure the value of an education, but you can clearly pay too much for it. I'd like to see independent research on how much grads make from different colleges and compare it to the debt loads they took on to get those degrees. I think we'd see some surprises there.
Thanks for reading, John Wasik, Bloomberg News,

1:02 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...

Hi Mr. Wasik,

Thanks for stopping by. My husband and I look forward to reading your new book!

1:06 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Community colleges, on the other hand, are seeing an unprecedented rise in enrollment. Lots of laid off folks here in Michigan.

3:04 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Dave Cornutt said...

JG, it sounds like your friend's blind date has one of those red-flag degrees, the ones that employers have learned not to hire. I call people like this "mal-educated", because they'd probably be better off if they had not gone to college at all. If her student loan is at 4%, she's now accumulating interest at the rate of about $350 per month. Frankly, with that degree she hasn't got a chance in hell of ever paying that off. In a way I feel sorry for her, but in a way I don't. She did it to herself with her choice of study, but I'm sure no one at the school ever told her about the finacial repercussions.

3:21 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger iconoclast said...

Many young men seem to be doing what women have always done: evaluate potential marriage partners based in significant part on their earning potential.

On this measurement, women with heavy college debts in employment-irrelevant fields will tend to score a negative number.

3:28 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:29 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"On this measurement, women with heavy college debts in employment-irrelevant fields will tend to score a negative number."


Young men still think with their little head and are still capable of being fully manipulated by young women.

I have confidence that women will come out on the receiving end of the money - just as they have always done over recorded time.

3:31 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anything, I think it's getting worse. Young women today seem to be even more demanding (especially financially) - I really pity young men.

3:33 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave Cornutt,

The Federal Government is coming to the rescue of all these people with massive student loans for stupid degrees (I understand).

You only have to pay a small percentage of your monthly salary on the loan (even if you aren't even covering interest payments) - as a maximum - and then the rest of the loan is forgiven after so many years (decades). The bill also provides for loan forgiveness if you work in ever-broadening areas that involve some type of government work or public service or the like.

I feel kind of stupid now that I took out the lowest possible amount in college and then worked my butt off to pay it off in full.

3:37 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:18 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Frankly, with that degree she hasn't got a chance in hell of ever paying that off."


As I wrote above, the government (i.e. taxpayers) is going to pay it off for her.

Without that, she would never pay it off through her own work. But women are in a whole different sphere of existence than men: She has a good shot of getting it paid off through a man. For a woman, part of the value of those degrees (at ivy league schools) is the chance to meet men who are going to be very wealthy.

You forget: Men without trust funds have 1 main way of getting rich: Work. Women have 2 ways today: Work or through men.

That still holds today, it's just covered up more. They all ACT like independent feminists, but still bag the men. I saw a study that a huge percentage of women with good ivy league degrees - law and medicine and the like - weren't even working 20 years later. They bagged the sap.

4:20 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an article from the NY Times about women just getting a chump to pay for them after getting an ivy league education:

But use Google to find out how frequent this phenomenon is.

The only difference between them and their mothers: Their mothers admitted it. The new crop consists of "strong, independent women" who just do the same damn thing as ever: leach off men.

4:25 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

I hear an awful lot of woman bashing going on hear. Let me remind you of one thing. Most well educated men do not want ignorant women for wives, even if their wives are to be stay-at-home moms. They want some one sufficiently educated and intelligent that they can talk to and have a reasonable conversation with. So the fact that a woman is not working 20 years after she finishes her college degree really does not mean she should not have gone to college. It many have been just the thing that was needed to make her the right wife for her husband.

4:52 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Dave wrote: "I call people like this "mal-educated"

Brilliant! I wonder if people hiring see some degrees and think "more trouble than they are worth."


6:27 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


So the $100,000 plus that daddy has to pay - or the taxpayers or most likely the future hubby (paying off her student loans) - is justified as a sort of "charm school" tuition.

'Cuz we can't have stupid sit-at-homes actually ACTING like stupid sit-at-homes. They have to be able to say big words and stuff. And I suspect that even that ability fades after 20 years or watching Oprah and laying on the couch.

You are trying to defend the indefensible: utter parasites.

As a side note: You seem to be yet another person who is pushing some kind of shaky doctorate on everyone else in your short name. Are you that insecure? I saw some other "doctor" admitted that he was not yet finished with some dopey doctorate in an idiotic "new" subject. It never ends.

6:31 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to confess that my wet dream is a woman who took lots of women's studies at an ivy league university and now has a $100k student loan that I have to pay off. All while she cuts me down because I "just work", while she is a cultural, advanced person.

Yeah, I find that HAWT. Gimme, gimme. I'll pay anything to get cut down by her.

6:50 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


That may be fine in idiotic subjects (like women's studies) where the husband can decide if she's worth her student loan (or ... I guess ... the government just pays it off), but you run into a problem with limited-slot studies like medicine.

I saw an article that there is already a problem with shortages in England. 50 years ago, it was mostly men who went to medical school, and they tended to work full time until they retired. Now the majority of medical students is women. And women work far fewer hours and then simply quit when they find a man to pay for them.

There really IS an argument about whether a huge group of people (the majority, in fact) who aren't going to use a medical degree - who are just getting it for vanity reasons - shouldn't be looked at more closely.

6:54 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

MB, I think you have an entirely valid point about women taking places in programs where enrollments are limited and then not staying in the workforce for a full career. I would certainly agree on that point.

Target, trying to exist in a home with someone like you, I am sure would drive anyone insane. You are right, it certainly would be a shame to waste an educated woman on you.

Oh, and with regard to your ignorant theory that I have a shaky doctorate, let me clear that up for you. I have a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin earned over 40 years ago. I have a pile of research papers and several books published as well, so you really don't need to worry about my academic credentials. They are very real. You ignorant jackass!

7:52 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

One day someone really smart will start a top-rate university with the best professors. They will house it in a place with classrooms and whiteboards, and little else. Students will buy their own computers, and there will be no dorms. There will be no athletics, no student center and no freshman picnics. The students will get a top rate education for a rock bottom price. The university will thrive and attract the best and the brightest.

8:05 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Cham, that sounds like a lovely idea, but it will be very hard to put into practice in the real world with real people. Some will demand an athletic program while others will say that is a distraction to the mission. Some will say that social development of the students is essential while others will say that college is about academic development. It will be hard to have a unified sense of mission on all points.

One of the stickiest points is the faculty. Will you give the faculty tenure or not? If you do, then you risk having people retire on the job as happens in many schools right now. If you do not, will you expect a person to work hard from the time they get a PhD, at say age 35 until they are perhaps 45, and then be out on their ear? They will be unemployable anywhere. This is a very difficult question to answer. I have only given it a very simple, two sided approach here, and it is much more complex, but it is far from simple.

I think this is why your idea has not already happened, Cham.

8:22 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Memphis said...

America's colleges and universities, despite their grave financial situation, have still refused to spend one single dime marketing their schools to males. Take a look at the billboards you see. Look at all the online ads. See if you can find even one with a white male featured in the center, in focus, looking at the camera, clearly indicating that the school wants HIM to enroll. I'll bet you can't find a single one.

9:35 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Memphis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:35 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was hoping Appalachian University in Boone, NC was going to become that very school, cham. Beautiful place for an incredible school to set up shop.

10:27 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Appalachian State University. Sorry.
Anyway, I love Boone, even if it has become as left wing as Asheville.

10:29 PM, August 19, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...


Even someone as out of it as myself knows that Appalachian State University has a football team.

6:30 AM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger dienw said...

What I would like to see is more hiring for us who have degrees and are nearing retirement but realize there is no retirement.

One element to keep in mind is to learn which state universities provide excellent degree programs in your desired field; get accepted; then move there and postpone entering for one year while you establish residency. Another factor to understand is that the Ivy League campus of a state university may not be the best campus for your subject: When I attended Rutgers and UNC, the Newark and Greensboro campuses had superior art departments; of course, back then, who new the world was going to change so radically with the personal computer.

11:42 AM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger dienw said...

@ JG
Please be advised the men without trust funds have another way to become rich without working: join the Democratic Party: was it Rahm Emanuel who studied ballet or another one of his brothers?

11:48 AM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger Dave Cornutt said...

Actually, with the exception of the classrooms and chalkboards, Cham pretty much described the Internet university. I really believe that outfits like the University of Phoenix are the future of higher education.

12:28 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

@ Dave Cornutt
I don't know a lot about the Univ of Phoenix (I've seen their ads, but that is about it), but I don't see how the 'net can replace the in-class exchange that occurs in a real classroom. Even with provisions for live chat sort of stuff, you still cannot see the other person, cannot see body language, etc. The level of communication is reduced.

That is one problem, the other is labs. Things like an engineering lab with real hardware are just about out of the question. There is the great temptation to go to simulations and call those "labs" but they are not the same thing. They are simulations, and while very useful, they teach a different thing. The do not give students the confidence in physical descriptions that happens when they see those descriptions actually played out in real hardware, such as breaking a beam. You just cannot satisfactorily do that at home.

So, to come back to the Univ of Phoenix model, this may work very well for some things, but I don't think it is going to work across the board.

12:59 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

JG --

"You forget: Men without trust funds have 1 main way of getting rich: Work."

John Kerry

1:26 PM, August 20, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"John Kerry"


I think his first wife was some heiress as well. He's got a talent for it that few men have.

1:30 PM, August 20, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:31 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

JG, I think you are missing the whole point on Kerry's charisma. It is his heroism - wasn't it three (self-awarded) purple hearts? Few soldiers require quite so many band-aids and live to tell about it! That is the appeal.

2:35 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

isn`t john kerry married to some psycho hienz hieress?

full marks there.

and women pissy enough to spend $100,000 on a masters in women`s studies deserve what they get.

(mumbles something about survival of the fittest......)

5:43 PM, August 20, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, and that Appalachian team has come to the forefront in the last few years. I meant that Boone is a great setting for a great school to be. It's a beautiful area. Football = money, though.

I know this is heresy, but I am not a big sports fan. The last professional football game I watched all the way through was the 1977 super bowl between Pittburgh and Minnesota. I was a VA Tech fan for four years.

9:39 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger Hucbald said...

"If anything, I think it's getting worse. Young women today seem to be even more demanding (especially financially) - I really pity young men."

Yeah, me too. I used to be one and got my education about women from the school of hard knocks. Now however, it's great: Being a middle aged guy with some wealth surrounded by college age girls is fun, and I know how to keep the hooks from getting into me. I wouldn't call it payback, exactly... but it is a lot less stressful, whatever it is.

10:49 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger brahma said...

Princeton advertises that the average debt for a graduating senior is around $8 grand. That's significantly less that the student loans I left college with 28 years ago. Doesn't seem overpriced to me.

10:53 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger FreeLunchCafe said...

I have a friend who just graduated with a bachelor degree in music. She has $140,000 in student loans, and is facing monthly payments of $1,100. Her only source of income is from teaching voice lessons (she is an opera singer). She says she was concerned about her rising debt all through college, but her school kept telling her not to worry, that "they have programs for that". She found one -- it's called the "I'm leaving the country and hoping the IRS never catches up to me" program...

10:53 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger JorgXMcKie said...

One thing not always mentioned in the cost of college is the huge amount of overhead in areas totally unrelated to the academic side. Gyms, dorm rooms better than fancy hotels, cafeterias, parking facilities, all the things it takes to make students 'comfortable'.

Face it, that 100K is paying for a lot more than academic studies.

Plus, my experience is that since 1970 or so, while the number of profs (or adjuncts or whatever) per 1000 students or whatever has remained pretty much the same while the number of administrators and ancillary staff has probably quadrupled. Such overhead is very expensive.

Parkinson's Law for Colleges would certainly have a larger coefficient.

10:57 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger AST said...

There was an article a couple of weeks ago in The Weekly Standard by Andrew Ferguson about how federal direct lending will soon be the only student lending available. Add to that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which forgives student loans if you go into certain kinds of jobs.

"Work for the government, any government--whether as an actuary, a diplomat, or a teacher; a social worker, a fighter pilot, or a forklift driver--and you qualify for the loan forgiveness. You qualify, too, if you take a job with any 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization . . .. The important thing is, you can't be helping anyone turn a profit."

I don't know how this will shake out, but it seems like a lot of social engineering is going on without anybody really knowing what the results will be. Matthew Lesko will need to go to two volumes.

11:06 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Do not fear, the One will pay for it. He wants everyone to get a college degree. He wants a trillion to pay for health care, why not another trillion to "invest" in the next generation. Those pesky loans will be forgiven once Congress worked out another govt. bureaucracy to make the loans and "save" billions by cutting out the middle men.

11:07 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger veni vidi vici said...

My dad was an EE prof for 40 years. I went to an unknown Cal State school nestled in the cleft between Compton and Watts. Like dad said, "no one cares where you go to undergrad; the only time to care about that stuff is when you're choosing a grad school."

So, I did well and went to a prestigious law school in Chicago, with no debt (I spent my undergrad studying music, using my Pell grants to buy guitars and working for a living on the side to cover expenses), alongside many a sad sack for whom the school was second-choice (they undergrad'd at places like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. and were clearly pissed they were in Chicago... their inferiority complexes amplified noticeably when they learned the no-name podunk school I'd gone to (and studied music, no less!), which brought me to the same station as they, but without all the debt).

In short, you're a moron for going to big-name undergrad schools unless you're studying something the school is renowned for, like a given engineering discipline for example. Save the bucks, go state and work hard, and springboard to the real deal if/when you go to grad school. That's where it has the most chance of paying off anyway.

11:29 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Once upon a time, a long time ago, like the mid-20th century and before, it was understood that college was not for everyone. College was only for about the to 10-15% of the country. Everyone else did quite nicely with a good, solid high school education (when high school educations were good and solid).

We have long since forgotten that wisdom, and we have degraded high school education to the point that one needs a college BS or BA in order to have a good, solid high school education. To have a real college education requires at least a Master's degree these days, possibly more. We have devalued the educational currency, just as we have devalued the dollar.

The Won has us poised on the precipice of massive monetary inflation with a dollar shrinking to infinitesimal value. And the same Won also proposes to devalue education such that there is a "college education for everyone;" more inflation in a different sphere. Conserving value just is not where it at with this man and his henchmen!

11:39 PM, August 20, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I hear an awful lot of woman bashing going on hear."

I think its bashing of "smart women who made foolish feminist choices" is all.

" Let me remind you of one thing. Most well educated men do not want ignorant women for wives, even if their wives are to be stay-at-home moms. They want some one sufficiently educated and intelligent that they can talk to and have a reasonable conversation with. "

This is why feminism and sociology mumbo-jumbo is 3 strikes your out for mating:
1. First, she has been mis-educated to mistrust the male patriarchy, so you cant do the hubby-wife traditional thing without therapy or huge 'issues'.
2. Second, she has been miseducated into a pack of lies, making her conversation boring and irritating. Indoctrination into liberal ethnic/feminist BS adds neither to intelligence nor real knowledge.
3. Third, she's gotten $100k in debt in the process, making her a financial anchor. who needs that in a single-paycheck family.

That's like getting an ANTI-MRS degree.
It's practically a lock-sure recipe for spinsterhood.

Anyone (man or woman) getting a grad degree (MS or PhD) in a liberal arts major either intends to teach that subject or is simply engaging in masochism (or escapism from ratrace reality).

11:45 PM, August 20, 2009  
Blogger George Bruce said...

Dr.D said...

"JG, I think you are missing the whole point on Kerry's charisma. It is his heroism - wasn't it three (self-awarded) purple hearts? Few soldiers require quite so many band-aids and live to tell about it! That is the appeal."

D, I think it is outrageous for you to ignore the fact that he was also awarded the Silver Star, ( for political influence and privilege far beyond the call of ordinary self serving.)

12:08 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Matt Young said...

CS 268: Graduate Computer Networking
History and structure of general computer networks and the Internet. Note: New class times and locations:

9-11a.m., 310 SODA
2-3p.m., 306 SODA

This is Berkeley, a class notice for computer networking.

Now, everyone think clearly on this. What is wrong?

It is a damn class, meeting in a classroom, about technology that obsoletes the classroom. Can anyone think of a better reason to skip Berkeley for computer school?

12:21 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger J said...

"Her subject area was cross-disciplinary sociological something-or-other with a dash of women's studies thrown in

Like tattoos, going into debt to get a humanities or "soft" social science degree is indicative of deficiencies in judgement most guys would prefer to avoid, at least with respect to anything permanent.

12:26 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Kurt said...

I went to an ivy league school and majored in English. I graduated more than 20 years ago. Had I left college and gone directly into the workforce, I probably would have eventually gone on to get an MBA or a law degree (as many classmates and fellow English majors did), and I would have done fine.

As it was, I opted to go to graduate school in English. At the time there was a study which said that there would be a huge demand for new faculty members in the mid-1990s, and I envisioned life as a faculty member somewhere. When I was done with graduate school, I was no longer committed to that path. But I didn't anticipate how much harder it would be to find a job outside of academia with a PhD in English than with a BA. I got interviews with some highly selective companies and organizations, but found that many other places didn't know what to do with me. Although I have since carved out a decent career for myself on the edges of academia, But I often wonder if I might have been much more successful if I had followed a different path or even started at a different kind of institution.

1:23 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Kevin said...

MB, I think you have an entirely valid point about women taking places in programs where enrollments are limited and then not staying in the workforce for a full career. I would certainly agree on that point.

That was the justification Harvard Medical School gave for accepting limited numbers of women in the 1940's - their experience was that female graduates were much less likely to use their medical degree for a full career - the men almost invariably were full-time doctors until retirement.

Sexist? You decide...

2:21 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Ron Coleman said...

Fancy college diplomas might help in certain career fields. I'm sure it does in the banking industry. However, let's say you want to be an actuary or a lawyer. Those potential employees and grad school applicants get weeded out by a test at the end, and a degree from a fancy school may not help you if you don't score well.

If you don't pass the bar exam, yes, that's bad, and it doesn't help to have an Ivy League degree, but essentially everything else stated in this passage, Cham, is just wrong with respect to the significance of prestige credentials in the legal profession (which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the actuarial profession).

The law world is, with exceptions, mainly hierarchical along numerous axes. Even a decade or more out of school, all things being equal most employers (and judges, colleagues, and prospective clients) will give the benefit of the doubt to a Yale Law grad who had to retake the bar exam three times (which no one will ever know) over a "third tier" law school alumnus whose academic experience may well have amounted to three years of bar prep. And yes, this does translate to undergraduate pedigrees too.

2:54 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

As an Ivy League grad who then went to med school, I have some observations:

1) The institution from which I received my degree _may_ have helped me get into a better med school. However, my MCAT, interviews, and GPA were all more important. After getting in, each next step along my career depended on some subsequent aspect of my education or job performance. Getting to a good residency was _entirely_ related to how well I did in med school. Getting a fellowship as a sub-specialist was dependent on how I did in residency, etc. While I think I received a good education, I could not recommend it as a good value. All it really did was help to open the first door. The same grades, MCATs, and interviews from University of Arkansas (where I grew up) would probably have done just as well, and for many thousands of dollars less.

2) Info economy jobs are very easy to outsource off shore. Many college attendees would be better off learning a craft for 4 years, making money rather than taking out loans, and reading their books on the side. If you can build a deck or fix an engine, your job is much less likely to be sent to India.

3) All three service academies ranked in the latest Forbes college top 10. Their secret - a good education and graduating without debt.

3:01 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Also, regarding the Princeton ad describing $8000 debt for its graduates on average:

1) I'd like to know the parental debt and the parental dollars spent on average. All the statistic may mean in isolation is that the school graduates kids whose parents can afford it.

2) the Ivies took some major hits to their endowments. Financial aid will be affected.

4:54 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Zerosumgame said...

If you are bright and work hard, studies have shown that you will succeed no matter where you go to school.

Ivy League schools produce more successful alumni not because they provide a better undergraduate education; but because they get the better, more driven students to start.

And this coming from me, an Ivy League alum.

5:08 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Locomotive Breath said...

"Let's face it, you meet one upper middleclass kid from the burbs you've pretty much met them all."

Let's face it, you meet one ghetto baby you've pretty much met them all. Guess who has a better chance of success at a university and in the life beyond?

6:59 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Interesting thread, very pertinent to my family's current situation. Our goal has always been to get our three through college with no debt. So far the oldest is one year out of a state college, employed with health insurance (no debt, self sufficient, but will never be rich). Our second is a junior in EE and has just snagged a scholarship that will cover everything but housing for his remaining two years so he also will have no debt. Our third is a daughter who is quite talented in math and is looking at Ivy Leagues. If she can get in, it appears to us that she will get a lot of aid, ironically enough because our family finances have dropped considerably in the last ten years due to job/family care situations. Is it true that Ivy's have a lot of money available if you can get in? Are we crazy to consider sending her to an Ivy League? Right now Princeton is high on her list because of their math program and because they do not appear to offer a major in African or Women's Studies (she is pretty conservative for a teenager). It would be far from home for her, and she would probably be surrounded by people she would not relate to. There seem to be a lot of Ivy League folks commenting here. Any advice?

8:12 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger John Pepple said...

Cham, possibly your idea at one time was exemplified by CUNY. I'm not sure. Anyway, CUNY got destroyed by the 60s.

And Dr.D, you say, "If you do not [give tenure], will you expect a person to work hard from the time they get a PhD, at say age 35 until they are perhaps 45, and then be out on their ear? They will be unemployable anywhere."

That's happening now. It happened to me. I was a gypsy scholar till I ran out of jobs. A new university will take some of the excess Ph.D.s off the market, which would be great as far as I'm concerned.

8:30 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:52 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...


I'm an alum of Princeton. I have some opinions on this, but I have not looked at the aid situation closely yet. I am still a year away from looking closely at schools with my oldest. My thoughts:

1) The Princeton aid package varies a great deal based on parental assets. Get in touch with their aid department early to see if they can give you an idea of what you might be expected to pay.

2) Don't rule out an ROTC scholarship (full tuition, paid back by time in service). Princeton has Army and Air Force ROTC. That's how my family was able to pay for it.

3) The administration at Princeton is pretty liberal, and they buy into this "University for the World" stuff that I disagree with. That said, there are all types on campus. Also, the feel of the Princeton campus is very small town. It is very different from the urban Ivies like Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Penn.

4) If your daughter knows she will major in math and then do something wherein the math degree helps, then I think this is one of the few majors where a Princeton degree puts one well ahead of graduates from most other schools. It has _that_ good of a reputation in math (molecular biology is another). My roommate took his Princeton math degree to business school and then to Wall Street, where he makes a killing using complex models to mitigate risk.

8:59 AM, August 21, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... and then to Wall Street, where he makes a killing using complex models to mitigate risk."


Just a smart-ass side note, but it doesn't sound like his models to mitigate risk (and those of others) have worked very well lately.

9:03 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger bearing said...

I'm a stay at home mom with a PhD in chemical engineering and no debt. I'm not sorry and neither is my engineer husband, to whom I serve as informal consultant on a regular basis.

Thanks for stepping up to the plate and defending us, DrD.

9:41 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger David Foster said...

An "elite" college degree generally has no more to do with education than a $15,000 watch has to do with accurate timekeeping. Both of them are primarily status symbols. The social purpose of "elite" colleges is to erect and solidify class barriers, and especially to ensure that families which have been wealty & successful in the past are able to propagate their position down through future generations.

9:44 AM, August 21, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did the Big State U. undergrad degree followed by Ivy League medical school. It worked out well for me, but if I had to do it over again, I'd stay in-state for medical school too, and save a good $100k. Of course I work in the Mountain West, where Ivy League credentials are either trivial, meaningless, or a net negative, depending on the context.

Having been a part of the Ivy League, I think the whole place is laughably over-rated, and am actively discouraging my brilliant and athletic daughter from even considering it for her undergrad education.

10:23 AM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

My experience has led me to believe that higher priced institutions are over-rated. I went to an expensive private southern college for undergrad. After which my parents stated that the well was dry. So I went to UGA law for a reasonable price on loans. I repaid my loans in five years and have been more sucessful than I ever anticipated given my mid-level rankings. I believe that no matter where you attend what you actually learn is up to you. I also believe that social skills are far more important than academic skills in the real world.
With regard to some of the above comments, please let me assure you that there are just as many golddigging layabout men out there looking for free sugar as there are women.

12:02 PM, August 21, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... please let me assure you that there are just as many golddigging layabout men out there looking for free sugar as there are women."


There are men out there looking for sugar-mommies, but the ratio is still heavily skewed. It really is.

That's still OK for women. It's still heavily frowned upon in men and most likely always will be.

12:08 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have PhDs from Yale and University of Chicago. I'm also a stay-at-home mom who has homeschooled three kids for the last 15 years. Finally, I'm done with my parental duty and will run for a state-wide public office in 2010.

Perhaps those years of studying history and philosophy have given me the intellectual tools to give back to society through serving in a political office?

I have to admit, though, that those years at home with children were dull and unrelenting. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't. I can't tell you how eager I am to get going with "real life."

12:26 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Kristen, are you saying that you would not have had the kids, that you would have not done the home schooling, or just what?

2:38 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Larry J said...

One thing not always mentioned in the cost of college is the huge amount of overhead in areas totally unrelated to the academic side. Gyms, dorm rooms better than fancy hotels, cafeterias, parking facilities, all the things it takes to make students 'comfortable'.

I also wonder if some of the student loan debt a lot of graduates have is due to things like Starbucks, spring break, and other non-education related expenses.

2:50 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger RichF said...

Cham, possibly your idea at one time was exemplified by CUNY. I'm not sure. Anyway, CUNY got destroyed by the 60s.

I went to CCNY when it was called the "poor man's Harvard" and got a BSEE for free. I make a six figure salary. My son who is 26 went to SUNY at Stony Brook and graduated with no debt. He makes near six figures and owns two co-ops. My advice to people is to find the cheapest good school that suits your major, work your tail off and try to get an internship. Five years after you graduate no one will care where you went to school. They want to see real accomplishment.

2:51 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Dave said...

I have made a couple of efforts to read all the comments, but the auto refresh feature of the page returns me to the top. I lose my place. I am sad.

3:00 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger ca said...

I went to an Ivy for undergrad and it was actually worth it to me, career-wise (I also met some incredible people there, but that's another story), for one good reason and one bad reason. The good reason is that I did very well in my (science) major in which my school excelled, and had my pick of grad schools as a result. The bad reason is that, when I applied to (non-academic) jobs after grad school, everyone was impressed by the Ivy name. Even now when I write proposals I find the people who read them notice the Ivy in my bio (in contrast, they almost never notice my non-Ivy grad school, even though its reputation in my field of study was at least as good, probably better). My estimation is that I've more than recovered the cost of the degree at this point.

But yeah, I agree, if people valued performance and technical ability above reputation, as they should, an Ivy degree would mean a lot less. It's just that in my experience they don't.

3:39 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Dave Cornutt said...

Interesting comments about the value of an Ivy education in law. My experience in engineering is that, once you've been in the field for a few years, no one cares what school you went to. There are still some engineers around who don't have college degrees at all, although they are getting rare.

And I have to agree with FT here: "I think its bashing of 'smart women who made foolish feminist choices' is all." That's the other side of the coin concerning the student body of many schools becoming mostly female: They're being pushed by the school faculty and administration (and, to an extent, by their peers) into the worse-than-useless "XYZ Studies" degrees. So yes, there's a lot of them graduating -- but many of them will never be able to hold down steady employment because they've been mal-educated. It's not that the girls are stupid, but gender feminism has led them down the primrose path.

4:16 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dr D.

I'm Kristen above. To answer your question, if I could jump in a time machine, and return to age 24, I'm not sure I'd have children. I say this with much misgiving. My kids are the joy of my life but were also an intellectually deadening experience. I feel like I've missed too much and will never get those years back.

Perhaps this is a typical midlife experience -- I don't know. Or care. I do know I'm eager to move past the childrearing years so I can live and give more fully.

Critics will say that the most worthy objective of life is to raise the next generation well. Perhaps this is true for those who find it satisfying and challenging. It wasn't true for me.

Regarding homeschooling: I simply gave up on private, public, and charter schools -- yes, I tried them all. I'm financially comfortable and thus able to hire tutors, as well as teach myself. Retrospectively, pulling the kids out of school was one of the best decisions made. If I was young again, I'd completely bypass the educational system from pre-school through high school.

As one of the "over-educated" females described above I don't recommend marrying a relatively wealthy man with whom it is difficult to share intellectual passions. Rare were those with whom I could share my intellectual curiosity. Starving for stimulation, I turned inward into the abstract world of books, not people. At times, the loneliness was overwhelming.

Never again.

7:07 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Kirsten, I'm sorry to read your sad comment. I do hope that you find what you are looking for now. I'm somewhat concerned that you may be in for a let down at this point. Outside of academia, there is very little like the sort of intellectual stimulus level you seem to be looking for in your note. Even there it is mixed with an awful lot of plain old drudgery, not unlike child rearing.

You speak of "living and giving" and I would encourage you to find ways to do that on your own, that is, to make your own ways to live and give. There are not many employment situations that are likely to give you the opportunities you are looking for, so you will most likely have to create your own situation ex nihilo. I don't mean to suggest at all that you cannot do this, but only to point out that this is the direction I think you will find most profitable.

Finding people with high levels of intellectual curiosity and interest with whom to share things is a very difficult thing to do in the general population at large. The result can lead to just what you experienced, overwhelming loneliness. This can continue, even though you are no longer burdened by children, unless you take the right steps to locate the appropriate people. Good luck with your efforts!

7:27 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh gosh, I wasn't looking for pity but merely suggesting that high IQ women who marry high income men aren't necessarily happy. In fact, many are miserable, myself included.

Regarding academe: Most of the women I've met in the academy are so infected with the feminist/womanist virus they're impossible to befriend. At one point, I thought I had found an oasis in academe, only to be parched in their ideological desert. Smart AND socially balanced woman are elsewhere. I'm slowly finding them.

In my case, running for office may be the self-created scenario I'm looking for. I pray so.

Thanks for your concern. All is well.


9:16 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger Bruce Hayden said...

It is an interesting dynamic. The Bloomberg article mentioned that Harvard and Yale run $50k a year for tuition, room, and board. That seems to be the standard for most of the Ivy League and an awful lot of the top private liberal arts schools.

I would suggest that that expense is easier to justify for boys than for girls, given that the boys are notably more likely to spend their working lives building a career, and the best schools often help you get into the best grad schools (esp. law school). And, in fields where relationships count (like law, securities, etc.), the contacts made in college can easily pay off the extra cost of the top schools.

And, it is notably easier for boys to get into the top schools than girls right now. It is still hard, but not the near impossibility that it is for girls.

But when you get to girls, the dynamic is much different. Sure, if they are going to an Ivy League school, and can snag a classmate, then great. Barbara Bush kinda did this, and it got her into the White House. But a lot of those guys destined for great things are not ready to get married by the time they graduate.

Their problem is that people really tend to marry those they are around, and that means other kids at your college while you are there, in graduate school with you, or later, in the workforce. So, by the time that they could be marrying all those Harvard classmates, they no longer are around them very much.

I think the long story here is that going to the very top schools for boys may still be worth it financially. But much less so for many of the girls. It wouldn't be so bad, if they were destined to work the same hours and decades as the guys, but they mostly aren't.

9:53 PM, August 21, 2009  
Blogger SGT Ted said...


We already have oodles of self-entitled graduates from Yale, etc. who are fucking up the country. Please stay at home or open a business with your vast education so you will be actually contributing something, like jobs and services, rather than become yet another tax leech spending other peoples money while solving nothing.

Thank you.

9:26 AM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger David Foster said...

Sgt Ted...well, one way or the other we're going to have politicians & officeholders, so we may as well have good ones...maybe Kristen has the potential to be one of the good kind. The negative feelings she expressed about the curent state of academia seem like a good sign..

12:43 PM, August 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kristen, a few points:

1) It sounds to me like you are taking your earning husband completely for granted. "Stupid" is just kind of there to pay for your life.

2) You sat home for decades, but now you are going to do something really cool, like get a public office.

You may find out that the real world is a bit harsher than you think. Maybe you think your sugar daddy, I mean your husband, will just kind of grease the skids in the background. Or, more likely, you don't really think at all as a housewife.

3) You assume, without any doubt, that you are a smart woman. So I'm curious: How many patents do you have? How many textbooks or even novels have you written? Any successful?

Have you friggin' done ANYTHING in your life to show that you are this superior being you claim to be, other than latch onto a sugar daddy and then be supported?

If you feel offended, keep in mind that I am trying my best to keep my comments objective. I absolutely hate women like you.

5:19 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

my understanding is that a top school is a social network, and that the degree is a ticket in. it may not be that way in engineering and such, but certainly is within finance and law.

otherwisew why pay ten times the price for the same thing?

5:21 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

and kirsten, i am engaged to a high-i.q. woman who was married to money, and i consider myself fortunate to have met her. bright, articulated and educated...and socially balanced after 46 years of personal growth.

she and i are happy.

we began by believing that we could find happiness, in ourselves, and then with eachother.

keep up the believing.

there are lots of 50% types out there. men and women looking for commerce...when they could have been looking for love, peace and happiness.

a 100% commitment.

5:27 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

MB, your jerk qualities are being highlighted again.

Kirsten has said that she is not entirely happy in her marriage. I don't think she ever called her husband "stupid," although to you all men who are willing to support a wife are "stupid." You are so blind!

Did you notice that Kirsten said that she had raised and home schooled her children? (that plural, we don't know how many). That's not quite the same thing as sitting at home. Many of us men are more than glad to leave the house for a few hours each day to get away from the kids. This is a major effort, and far from the insignificant accomplishment you seem to think it is. You ability to belittle what you don't understand is truly amazing!

Any person, man or woman, with two PhDs from the fine schools where Kirsten has obtained her degrees is reasonably entitled to think him/herself a pretty smart cookie. Do you have any educational accomplishment approaching this?

How many people do you know about, who while they are busy with the full time effort of raising and educating multiple children, still have the interest, motivation, and energy to write textbooks or novels? Dozens, I'm sure. By the way, most people interested in history and philosophy, which I seem to recall were Kirsten's areas, most of them don't take out many patents. It just does not seem to fit the territory, ya know (or do you?).

You really seem to be a man who hates women. Why is that? Did some woman take advantage of you at some point? Do you think this justifies a hatred of all women? Get over it, man! Women are really very nice people if you are nice to them!

5:41 PM, August 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Do you have any educational accomplishment approaching this?"


I've got a GED and was only 10 credits short of my associates degree, so I think I'm a pretty smart cookie.


But otherwise, take your sensitive Phil Donahue defense of women, crumple it up into a ball with spiky points, and then shove it up your ass.

And I really mean that in the nicest way possible. You are a gas bag deluxe.

5:47 PM, August 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:58 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

MB, despite your best efforts, you are letting your natural charm show through! What a winning personality you have! You must be just surrounded by friends!

JG, JD, so you met a gold digger? Well, I certainly did not intend to imply that they don't exist. If you think about it, you may have met some men you did not think too highly of, either. I know that I have met both men and women for whom I did not form a very high opinion. Now, what does that prove?

You think this reminds you of Kirsten? Maybe so, but quite likely not. Do you know more about Kirsten than the rest of us do? If not, then you are projecting a lot onto her that just is not supported by the limited information available.

6:59 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger bearing said...

Count me in as unimpressed by the "raising kids = sitting on your ass" argument.

I don't know why I keep reading this blog. OK, I do. I like Dr. Helen's writing. But I've never seen quite so much anti-mother attitude anywhere else in the conservative blogosphere.

Homeschooling kids is not easy. Unlike Kirsten, who has my pity, I happen to find it fulfilling and interesting. I am not so self-absorbed that I have to be validated by success as measure by the outside world. Nevertheless it's difficult work, and I'm glad I am married to a man who appreciates the work I do.

I think there's a lot of schmucks here who can't find a good woman, maybe for good reason, and it shows. Whiners.

7:11 PM, August 22, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

from the limited info given i would surmise that kirsten isn`t so much digging for gold as holding the fort.

being a mother has fallen out of popularity of late, and so many men who were raised by women who rejected the mothering role may feel that all women are somehow gold-digging...even if they clearly state the opposite.

or these critical men have just met too many god-diggers themselves.


kirsten seems nice....maybe she has a sister.

did you think to ask?

12:30 AM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm the infamous Kristen above.

Please understand that I posted here only to suggest that high IQ and highly educated women have a difficult time finding a niche in life, including marriage.

Rereading my post, I can see why some thought I was a gold digger, etc. The post was quickly executed and poorly conceived. I apologize.

Some history: While in grad school, I made a check-list for a marriage partner. The first item on the list was honesty. I wanted someone I could trust, and honesty seemed a good proxy for trustworthiness. Thus, I married a minister. For five years we raised money for a non-profit that ministered to kids in trouble. Little delinquents. Those were our "day-old-bread years" of much work and little money.

Four kids later -- the oldest was adopted -- we needed money. I guess you could say I was a golddigger, but in retrospect, truly I was motivated to protect and provide for the kids. Thus, my husband quit the ministry and became a successful bond trader in a big city. As his life gained traction -- friends, golf, travel, kids, and more friends -- my life, somehow, got lost in the transition.

My mind often wandered into more interesting territory than mundane life. The world of ideas was both entrancing and a solace. After the kids were in bed, I'd spend hours reading and writing, praying for someone -- ANYONE -- to talk to. Those prayers were never answered. Books were my solace. My social life.

To sum: My secret life of ideas and books cannot sustain me any longer. I need out. I need to give in a way that ... I don't know what I'm saying. I guess I'm trying to say that life still holds promise for me. I'm taking inventory of what's left and finding shards of hope and dreams. I'm piecing those shards together into some sort of vessel -- my future life. The youngest is finally a teenager and I'm in my forties. I've been dutiful to the kids. Homeschooled. A faithful wife. I'm still attractive. The degrees are stale, but useful.

Yes, I'm going into politics. I want to reform education in my state. I'll start at the bottom as a state representative and work my way up to the governor's office. I hired a campaign advisor today.

You'll see!

In the meantime, would those posters who so quickly judge, please think twice. The anonymity of the web provides a forum for self-revelation (like mine) as well as masked, irresponsible criticism. Please, please be careful.


1:10 AM, August 23, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You'll see!"


Yes. You're going to show us all.

That's how it usually works in real life.

4:25 AM, August 23, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back when I was saying that I was going to become a comedian, they all laughed.

But they're not laughing now.

4:26 AM, August 23, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Here's what I think: You have a big ego and you found a man who pays for you and cleans up your messes behind you so that you don't have to deal with the real world.

I'm just not impressed, sorry.

And you may find out after your plunge into the real world that it's not all an empowering Oprah-moment. It's not what you have built up in your mind from watching countless hours of television (especially empowering daytime housewife television).

5:04 AM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...


Here's what I think: You are displaying a textbook example of "internet bravery", and you are using the forum to say rude things to a stranger that you would never say in person. Your posts tell us more about you and less about Kristen than you might think.

6:07 AM, August 23, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if "Internet bravery" is all that bad, David. Maybe some things that never get said - that are the truth - finally get said.

I would personally never say anything bad to a housewife at a social function - I might piss off her husband, who is a future business partner or customer - but I certainly think it.

11:38 AM, August 23, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

no, i think tether speaks his mind in public also. that`s why women have put him in his place so often he`s looking for misogynist companionship and agreement now.

internet bravery. possibly.

if he spoke like that with most men in the meat world he`d get what we all know he`d get.

9:20 AM, August 24, 2009  
Blogger iconoclast said...

Kristen, I did kind of the opposite of what you did...married someone who seemed like a good intellectual companion. But she turned out to be very, very hard to live with in other ways.

If your husband treats you nicely, doesn't try to suppress your intellectual interests, is good to the kids, and you have a decent sex life, then maybe you're better off than you think.

Intellectual companionship is more "portable" than many other aspects of marriage.

2:33 PM, August 24, 2009  

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