We’re told ad nauseam that college is the key to success. Is it any wonder that some parents broke the law to get their child into the best?
Of course, the parents accused by the FBI of bribing coaches and test administrators are an extreme case, but even some law abiding parents can relate: Some donate millions to their alma mater or hire $1,000-per-hour consultants to land a coveted spot at a top school.
And yet from an economic standpoint, this makes no sense. The evidence shows that a college degree delivers a large and sustained income premium over a high school diploma, but a selective college doesn’t make the premium bigger. There are exceptions, but most people who prosper after graduating from such a college would likely have prospered if they had attended a less prestigious institution as well. After all, the children whose parents were charged last week were born with wealth, connections, and devoted parents willing to do almost anything for them, a recipe for success no matter where they graduate from.