College Prestige Lies

Robin Hanson:

Over the next two weeks my eldest son will be rejected by some colleges, accepted by others. And then we’ll likely have to make a hard choice, between cheap state schools and expensive prestigious ones. A colleague told me the best econ paper on this found it doesn’t matter. From its 1999 abstract:
We matched students who applied to, and were accepted by, similar colleges to try to eliminate this bias. Using the … High School Class of 1972, we find that students who attended more selective colleges earned about the same [20 years later] as students of seemingly comparable ability who attended less selective schools. Children from low-income families, however, earned more if they attended selective colleges.
A 2006 NYT article confirms this:
Higher education experts have this message … Pay less attention to prestige and more to “fit” — the marriage of interests and comfort level with factors like campus size, access to professors, instruction philosophy. … A 1999 study by Alan B. Krueger … and Stacy Dale … found that students who were admitted to both selective and moderately selective colleges earned the same no matter which they attended.

One thought on “College Prestige Lies”

  1. Speaking as a volunteer college admissions interviewer for the past twenty years and as a parent who has lived through the college admissions process once, I wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion/advice regarding the importance of fit. At the same time, it has always irked and saddened me that these studies rely most heavily on salary and earnings as their primary dependent measure. The value and worth of a life experience like where one goes to college is reflected in oh so many other things besides the money one makes.

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