Are private elite universities worth it?

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XtremeSki2001
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Re: Ivy Undergrad?

Post by XtremeSki2001 »

edge wrote:A number of the Ivy schools have fairly poor (for the money) undergraduate programs. I think the only one that is really supposed to have a good all-around undergraduate program is Princeton. Besides, it is unlikely for a high priced undergraduate degree to really be worth it. Undergraduate degrees are a commodity these days.
You're right, at least from my experience.

UPenn was next door to my Private Uni and unless you're in the Wharton school, it's not all too different then my Uni at 1/2 the cost.
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Post by White Coat Investor »

daryll40 wrote: EmergDoc....do you think your medical education was worth it? Are the bucks enough to pay the loans and live a comfortable lifestyle?
Without a doubt it was worth it both personally and financially. I think I live a comfortable lifestyle and I actually don't have any financial loans except the aforementioned one from 14 years ago that I haven't paid interest on yet. My undergrad tuition was covered by an academic scholarship and I worked in the summers to pay for living expenses throughout the rest of the year (and donated a little plasma.) Uncle Sam swapped me medical school loans for the right to send me to the desert to patch up wounded soldiers. I'm grateful to serve my country, but in a purely financial vein, I would have come out ahead if I had paid for medical school with financial loans rather than a military commitment.

Maybe I should have made Uncle Sam pay for a more expensive medical school rather than one of the cheapest in the country where I wanted to attend, but it was very clear to me in the medical school process that cost of education had very little to do with quality of education. That may be different for undergrad, but certainly not for medical school. I don't know where any of the physicians I work with went to undergrad or medical school, and frankly, don't care. Brand name residency can be important for the first job, but mostly I just care about how competent and caring they are to our patients.

Now, as far as your dilemma. If my parents had offered to pay for my schooling, I certainly would have taken them up on it. I like to think I would still value my education and money in general just as much. But I don't know if that is true. My wife's parents helped us out a bit for a couple of years while I was in medical school and she was in grad school ($300 a month plus free use of a $2000 car,) and I certainly appreciated that. So who knows how much value there is in letting kids learn in the school of hard knocks? Maybe not as much as some of us think.

Have you had your daughter read this thread yet? I wonder what her thoughts would be after reading it.
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Post by daryll40 »

My daughter, to her credit, is still trying to digest all of this. She worries that it might cost too much. She does not know that I can certainly swing it but that my REAL issue is VALUE. But in her own 17 year old way, she is trying to sort out the peer pressure to go to a "good" school with the vague understanding that $250,000 could by a "decent" undergrad education with big bucks left over for grad school/house/business etc.

I guess there are WORSE things peer pressure can cause kids to do. :wink:
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greg24
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value

Post by greg24 »

She does not know that I can certainly swing it but that my REAL issue is VALUE.

If you want the best value, a state school like PSU is definately your best option. Even the best Ivy League school won't give her 4 times the education, but it will cost at least 4 times more.

Darryl, from your posts on here and the old board, I think you want to hear that you should send her to the best brand-name school possible. I think for you and your daughter, the best option is the best brand-name school she can get into.

And contrary to your previous post, money can get her into almost any school you want. Come up with a few million to donate to a school, and she can pick amongst the Ivies. :D
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Post by daryll40 »

In the real world, the Ivy costs about double, not 4X Penn State.

4 years at PSU with dorm etc is now $85.000. Ivys are at exactly $200,000. Add about $1000 per month for other expenses or another let's say 50 grand for 4 years.

Your at $135,000 versus $250,000.

I am sure I am gonna get flamed for guesstimating 12 grand/year for expenses, but in the real world if you are honest and add up all the extras including trips home, etc that's what my friends are saying they are really spending. True, the kids can earn some of that in the summers. But the cost is still the cost. 135 grand versus 250 grand.

Twice the cost for Ivy/Elite Private...but not four times.

Oh and I am SURE there are kids at the Ivys that DID get in because Daddy gave $1M. I'm not in that league and frankly think THAT does the kid a disservice.
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Re: Ivy Undergrad?

Post by Petrocelli »

XtremeSki2001 wrote:
edge wrote:A number of the Ivy schools have fairly poor (for the money) undergraduate programs. I think the only one that is really supposed to have a good all-around undergraduate program is Princeton. Besides, it is unlikely for a high priced undergraduate degree to really be worth it. Undergraduate degrees are a commodity these days.
You're right, at least from my experience.

UPenn was next door to my Private Uni and unless you're in the Wharton school, it's not all too different then my Uni at 1/2 the cost.
I beg to differ, for a couple reasons:

First, I can't answer for Penn, but I believe that Columbia has one of the best undergraduate programs. All students must take two one year great books courses. One studies the great work of literature, and one studies the great works of philosophy. They must take a half-year music survey course, and a half-year art survey course. All these classes have 25 students or less. Any graduate receives a well-rounded education.

Second, ou can also make courses in the graduate school with some of the world's experts on subjects. For example, I studies Horace and Catullus with Steele Commager in a class of about 15 students, and Ulysses with Wallace Gray.

Third, like it or not, Ivy leaguers yield a lot of power in this country. Look at the number of presidents that went to Ivy League Schools. Or look at ther recent elections. Both Bushes went to Ivy league schools, both Clintons, Kerry, Gore, Obama.

Fourth, if you get an Ivy League degree you have a huge advantage in getting jobs. All other things being equal, if one guy went to Harvard and the other one went to the state university, the Harvard grad is probably getting the job.

I think the statements that ivy league colleges are not that good is simply wrong. I think there are many fine schools that are not ivy league schools. However, I think that most Ivy Leaguers would uniformly agree they received an excellent education.
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Re: Ivy Undergrad?

Post by prh2s »

edge wrote:A number of the Ivy schools have fairly poor (for the money) undergraduate programs. I think the only one that is really supposed to have a good all-around undergraduate program is Princeton.
I'd give the nod to Dartmouth. Although the school has a handful of graduate/professional programs (medicine, business, a few others), Dartmouth's primary mission is educating undergraduates.

I've known several Dartmouth graduates; some are very close friends. I've never met a more fanatically loyal bunch of alumni.

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greg24
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ok, twice as much

Post by greg24 »

I'll take your word for it. PSU.edu gives some easy-to-find figures that would ballpark 4 years at $100k. The Ivies seem to make it harder to find costs, I couldn't find them very well.

Anyways, twice as much. Is it twice the education?

Go ahead and send her to the biggest name you can find. That is what you really want to do, so splurge and do it.
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Not so fast...

Post by edge »

Third, like it or not, Ivy leaguers yield a lot of power in this country. Look at the number of presidents that went to Ivy League Schools. Or look at ther recent elections. Both Bushes went to Ivy league schools, both Clintons, Kerry, Gore, Obama.
Sure, but all of them have graduate degrees except the old guy - and an undergraduate degree wasn't a requirement for operating the deep fryer back in his day.

Of course, this begs the question - who the heck wants to be president anyway?
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Post by epilnk »

"A number of the Ivy schools have fairly poor (for the money) undergraduate programs. I think the only one that is really supposed to have a good all-around undergraduate program is Princeton."

Really? In that case I say save the money. I went to Princeton for my PhD and got to do a lot of grading during my teaching assistantships. I was not impressed. (The students, though, were impressed with themselves.) I'm now at a mid-tier UC and both the students and the courses seem at least as good (though it's been a few years, perhaps my expectations have changed). I'm glad I have the name school on my PhD but I'm very glad I didn't undergrad there - it would not have suited me at all.

FWIW, I do think there is merit in going to a good school. It doesn't need to be the best, but there's a big difference between "good" and "OK". However, if she's been raised to aspire to the "best" school, it doesn't seem fair to expect her to understand why you're changing your tune now after all her hard work. I don't think the small vs big equation is so clear cut either. Small schools in general educate better, big schools provide more opportunities for specialty interests (especially science) or for the self motivated.

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Daryll40

Post by nick22 »

Well, I guess what we've learned so far is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the quality of an education is very subjective. Probably not too helpful for daryll40, but still a good thread.

I have not had the chance to compare the Ivy education to my own UT-Austin education since I only applied to Brown and got wait-listed. I think one caveat to this thread is that we are all probably fairly successful by conventional measures, and our thoughts may not be representative of what other groups (those who have had less success despite a similar educational background) would think on the topic. It seems like the Ivy grads attribute part of their success to their experience/education/contacts, while the state school grads seem to believe it is easy to thrive despite not having these subjective and "minor" advantages. I wonder what the less successful grads from our same schools would feel? Maybe the state school grads would curse their "inferior" education and the Ivy grads would think their education was a rip off.

Since we probably haven't been of too much help, maybe you can focus on school size, geography, and career/study interests to help you narrow down the field. I would certainly vote that Atlanta is too hot and Chicago is too cold, but it would probably be nice having your daughter somewhat close to home.
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Post by daryll40 »

Not to hijack my own thread, but I will interject here that the two biggest things that have led to whatever success I am enjoying have been:

1. The ability to be highly organized.

2. The early realization that I needed to live well below my means and save money. Later I learned how to invest and I am still learning.

All of that being said, this thread has been very helpful in helping me see what might be best for my daughter, a whole generation later subjected to an even more competitive world. I guess a few posts back I kind of got clarity. In the end it's gonna cost me about $135,000 MORE for the private/elite school. Fortunately in the big scheme of things this is not going to make or break me and I believe it's worth the gamble that those extra bucks will pay off some way some how.

Or to put it as I stated earlier...that hundred thirty five grand will probably be worth more to my kid now than it will compounded but not availble until I'm dead in up to 50 years from now.

So I am going now to ENCOURAGE my kid to apply to the elite private schools (including Michigan, which is not private but costs as much for us out of staters) and go for it!
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Post by XtremeSki2001 »

I'd tell you daughter to read this thread and see if she thinks differently after doing so.

Just to add to your list, Daryll, the one biggest thing that has led to my success straight out of college is one thing and one thing only (I'm 23).

- My Resume

I went to a private University that integrates co-op's into our education. You can't graduate without working for at least three companies in the 5-year program for 6 months each.

This helped me build a very strong resume, develop contacts in the field, build my skills with hands-on work, make money during the year, and also help provide some guidance into what I'd like to do during my career.

The private University I attended was ~$24K a year. I went to county college the first two years and only went to the private University for three years. My loans are large and my parents are paying half, but my resume was the biggest asset coming out of school.

If your child has U of Mich on her resume and she's up against my child from a private University with three 6 month co-op experiences, that U of Mich name won't mean a thing if that's the only thing on her resume.

Just something to think about. I'm sure U of Mich has a fine internship program, but it's the resume that counts in the beginning.

Just my $.02
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which college?

Post by marco100 »

If money is not really an object--which in OP's case apparently it is not, he is well off enough to pay for college no matter where his child gets into-- then of course you want your child to go to the "best" school she can get into.

But, what does "best" mean?

Surely, "best" does not mean a rather arbitrary ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

"Best" should mean, what is best for my child?

Where will my child be happiest?

What are my and my child's goals for undergraduate education?

The so-called "best" schools (i.e. Ivy and quasi-Ivy such as CalTech, MIT, Michigan) may not be the "best" for your child.

These "best" schools can be and often are incredibly competitive pressure cookers. They are filled with young people who are experts at getting good academic grades, extracurriculars, a polished resume, and looking good on paper. What they are not filled with are particularly many people who really know what they want to do with their lives, or even why they wanted so desperately to matriculate at such a fine university.

Is there a particular area of undergraduate study that your child is interested in? If so, perhaps you should investigate which of the possible choices has faculty and course work more attuned to that area of interest.

Have you checked out the campuses concerning non-academic aspects of college life? What living arrangements are available?

Many kids going to college really have no idea what they want to do after that. College is just the "next step" of the academic grindstone after high school. Then of course it will be off to grad school.

I can tell you from personal experience that going to an elite school for undergraduate work simply because "you can" may be a huge mistake.

Your child will be happiest if the choice of college is motivated as much as possible by internal choices, not be externalities. What U.S. News and World Report says is "best" is an externality. What all her friends think is "best" is an externality. What her own parents think is "best" is an externality.

Undoubtedly, your child is probably feeling incredible pressure from her parents to go to the "best" school. This is implicit from your original post. If she doesn't go to the "best"/"most expensive" whatever school, then somehow that's a poor reflection on not just the child, but also the parents.

If you really want your child to make the best decision, FOR HERSELF, then please sit down with your child and say: "This decision is yours. We just want you to be happy, wherever you go. Please don't feel that you have to go to the best or most expensive school. If you do decide that's what you want, we will support you. But if you want to spend a year at Podunk U, or the local community college, that's fine, too."

Have you made that clear to your child yet?

Just wondering.
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success?

Post by greg24 »

Maybe we should discuss whether success is making as much money as possible, or maximizing happiness?

:twisted:
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Success

Post by nick22 »

Success is easy to define Greg, it is.....
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Re: success?

Post by shadowrings »

greg24 wrote:Maybe we should discuss whether success is making as much money as possible, or maximizing happiness?

:twisted:
nods nods

it's definitely nice to have the cash to do what one wants when one wants but with being content with what you're doing and where you're at in life IMHO has to rank right up there near if not the top of the must achieve list

rich and miserable...
or
modest and happy...

at least in my mind its not too difficult a choice... sure i'd love to be filthy rich but without personal contentment all the dough is is printed money..

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Re: success?

Post by XtremeSki2001 »

greg24 wrote:Maybe we should discuss whether success is making as much money as possible, or maximizing happiness?

:twisted:
That's really up to each person ... the discussion would lead no where.

For some, making a lot of money is happiness.

Personally, waking up each day and enjoying the work I do every day is success and happiness to me.
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Post by daryll40 »

Good discussion. I think success is being happy with who you are and what you do. In our capitalisitic society money is a component of that, bigger for some and not as big for others. Education helps you become something more. Usually (but not always) that leads to a higher income than otherwise would be the case. But success in America without education is the exception, not the rule.

That's my one criticism of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs speeches. They often inspire students at graduation speeches with tales of their garage startups. Glorifies dropping out. But they are the one in a million exception to the rule. I would never advise someone to drop out under normal circumstances. There is very little that you can't do AFTER getting the sheepskin that requires quitting and doing it now. Again, Gates and Jobs are the exceptions. And in their cases, they were probably TOO SMART for the system and bored. For most kids that's just not the case.
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greg24
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happiness

Post by greg24 »

But success in America without education is the exception, not the rule.

Agreed. But we are debating the same level of education at different schools. Do you think Northwestern graduates are happier than PSU graduates? I doubt it.

Studies have shown that happiness doesn't increase once you get beyond roughly $80k a year.
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Re: happiness

Post by XtremeSki2001 »

greg24 wrote:But success in America without education is the exception, not the rule.

Agreed. But we are debating the same level of education at different schools. Do you think Northwestern graduates are happier than PSU graduates? I doubt it.

Studies have shown that happiness doesn't increase once you get beyond roughly $80k a year.
Interesting point, Greg.

If I may, we could look at your point in different light.

Do you think Northwestern graduates are happier than PSU graduates?

I don't have any stats to back me up, but I agree with you assertion that neither are "happier" as a result of the institution where they study.

Tuition (06-07):
Northwestern - ~$50K a year
PSU - ~$21K a year in-state

With those stats above, despite NW being nearly 2.5 times as much money as PSU, neither have students that are happier then the other.

With those stats above, no entry-level NW graduate is going to see a 250% gain in starting salary over PSU.

What's this say? I think another poster put it well, you go to a school where you can learn and enjoy yourself the most. College is purely what you make of it. It's most important for the individual to be happy.
Last edited by XtremeSki2001 on Thu Apr 19, 2007 2:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by daryll40 »

Your point maybe correct but your numbers are wrong. The Northwestern number you posted (50 grand) includes dorm and food. Your Penn State number does not. Penn State is now 21 grand including dorm and food.

So you're looking at 200 grand versus 85 grand. Still more than double, but not five times. Let's not make a "tough to reconcile" price difference even MORE tough to reconcile. :roll:
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Post by rockH »

I remember reading about a study a few years ago. They tracked kids who were admitted to both a top tier school and a state school, and decided to attend the state school (UPenn and Penn State maybe?). Then they followed the kids after graduation to see what they earned. There was no difference. Can't remember how long they followed them after graduation.

So while the average Ivy grad makes more than the average state school grad, the average Ivy Admit who decides to attend a state school instead does just as well afterwards. So this study concluded that it was the talent of the individual that makes the difference, not the "name" on the degree. Sounds logical to me.

Being an Ivy grad I can't knock the quality of the institutions, or the quality of the students there, but the great students make the top tier schools great, not the other way around. A great student will be a great student at any college.
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Re: Are private elite universities worth it?

Post by Target2019 »

daryll40 wrote:So the question is this: Are these 2nd tier $250,000 schools (that's right...four years @ $50,000 plus beer and Cancun money) worth it versus, say, Penn State Honors program at a "mere" $85,000?
When the question is phrased as such, you can see the answers. My daughter is also 17, so we share the same challenge.

My son is graduating from an out of state $100K school - it was a 5-yr IT co-op program. He is graduating in 4 years. Go figure. When he graduated h/s he did not seem to have much motivation, but a great intellect. Why has he excelled? He made his own decisions. I gave him one requirement - it had to be a school with good co-op choices. He graduates next month, and has accepted an offer from Cisco. He has about 25K in loans. We paid about $40K, and the rest was grants, his work study, part-time jobs.

I think that his decisions in the past four years were good.

His sister will make decisions also. She will overcome our tendencies to want to make the decisions for her. I am giving her insight into the job occupations and salary that will result from her choice. I would like her to stay in the state, but will back her decision.
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Post by mike10 »

If this has already been said forgive me. It seems this discussion sounds alot like whether being a Boglehead is better than being associated with a brokerage firm.

One group of people will say paying commissions to a financial advisor will generate them more income. The boglehead says that added costs does matter to the bottom line. So you have the Pay more get more crowd vs the Pay less get equal or better group.

I say if the family can pay for the private school go for it. However, I would not saddle my kids with huge student loan debt just to send them to a private school. My son graduated from a State school and was hired my a large national company. He works with people who attended private schools and Ivy league schools who make less than he does because of the degree he received. He has also told the horror stories of the student loan debt that these kids have and how appreciative he is that he does not have that problem.

I believe the cream of the crop will rise to the top no matter what reputable school they attend.

Good luck to you and your daughter and don't look back on your decisiion.
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Post by daryll40 »

I absolutely agree that if it's choice between big debt at an expensive private school vs less or no debt at a state school I would NEVER EVER advise all but the top top top students (who will get scholarships anyway) to avoid the debt. Fortunately, that is not my or my kid's situation. She'll be debt free either way (although with the state school there would be big money leftover for grad school that an Emory or similar will burn up).
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Re: Are private elite universities worth it?

Post by XtremeSki2001 »

Target2019 wrote:I gave him one requirement - it had to be a school with good co-op choices.
My parents hadn't given me that requirement, but I established that myself. It was absolutely critical in my success so far. Like I said earlier, a Emory kid with a blank resume doesn't stand-up to a Drexel Co-Op kid with 1.5 years of real paid work experience. IMHO
daryll40 wrote:I absolutely agree that if it's choice between big debt at an expensive private school vs less or no debt at a state school I would NEVER EVER advise all but the top top top students (who will get scholarships anyway) to avoid the debt. Fortunately, that is not my or my kid's situation. She'll be debt free either way (although with the state school there would be big money leftover for grad school that an Emory or similar will burn up).
What does your daughter think of this thread so far? Maybe getting her to register and talk with everyone will give her some alternative suggestions and a excellent learning opportunity.
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Re: Ivy Undergrad?

Post by ohiost90 »

Petrocelli wrote:I think the statements that ivy league colleges are not that good is simply wrong. I think there are many fine schools that are not ivy league schools. However, I think that most Ivy Leaguers would uniformly agree they received an excellent education.
I don't think anyone here is saying that ivies doen't offer a great education. What most people here are saying that the DOLLAR VALUE of that education is low compared to less expensive colleges.

In your example of the one kid out of harvard and one out of state U. I would agree that the harvard kid is going to have an advantage right out of school. However, that advantage disappears over the course of his career. After 3~5 years, the same two kids apply for the same job again, the advantage will be smaller, after 5~10 years the advantage smaller still. Again, as many pointed out, this is also very career specific.

In the end, this is a mathematical question, is the extra costs for harvard going to be made up by increase salary over the grads lifetime. I believe most studies have showed that the answer to that question to be no. I'm off to google right now to see if i can find a few....
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Post by MossySF »

There probably are some fields where no amount of university prestige will help. I remember one story profiled in CNNMoney about a girl going to NYU for a sociology degree, graduating with 150K of debt and getting a 20K job at a non-profit in NYC.

There are other fields where it truly is a meritocracy. If you wanted to be a software developer, a CS degree will give you a leg up but beyond just having one, showing off a portfolio of projects you've worked is far more important than any school pedigree. And the great thing about this field now is you can participate in open-source projects and/or build your own websites anytime you please -- you no longer have to try to score a co-op to gain experience. So unless your goal is a PhD to work in research, the best use of time for a future programmer is to go to the easiest+cheapest school possible so you have free time to work on your own projects.

One final thought -- anybody who decides on a prestigious school, it'd better be top 10 or nothing. Most the top schools mentioned in this thread, I've barely heard of them before. And while that's my problem for not being aware of those schools, guess who's usually hiring? The average American who will only know of the top schools in the region + top10 national. School #38 on the list (but a few states over) will be given the same weighting as school #10000.
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Post by daryll40 »

Despite the urging of many of you, I am NOT going to show this threat to my daughter. I did, however, print some selected responses. She doesn't need to know my entire mindset on this. Sure, she might find it on her own but that is very doubtful as she doesn't know my screen name and doesn't know where to look for forums like this etc. Anyway, I thank you all :D for the great discussion here...it's been very helpful in sifting all of this "college thing" out. I am still not sure where she'll end up, but at least I have a better mindset in sorting out the decisions to come over the next 6-12 months.
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Post by XtremeSki2001 »

Good luck, Daryll!

You can always print-out the whole thread and just black out your responses :lol:

I kid, I kid!
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Post by WiseNLucky »

I know this thread is pretty much done, but I read something today from an old Laura Rowley article. The article is about the psychology of spending and how you think something is better because you paid more for it. Buried in the article was this jem about the cost of education:
The New York Times recently reported that a number of colleges and universities have raised their prices without altering their academic offerings. The result? Enrollment boomed.

At Ursinus College, a liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, the board voted to raise tuition and fees 17.6 percent in 2000 to $23,460. Within 4 years, the size of the freshman class had ballooned by 35 percent, as applicants concluded a higher price must mean a better education.
:D :shock: :D :shock: :D :shock:
WiseNLucky
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daryll40
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Post by daryll40 »

I suspect the cause and effect implied in the article is backward. They raised fees BECAUSE THEY COULD (increased echo-baby-boomers pushing up the demand for higher education).

Take away all that government guaranteed "free" student loan money (it's free when you are 17....doesn't become expensive until you are 22) and these huge college costs would shrink tomorrow. They'd have to squeeze costs so that the product could be priced based on what people could afford without the loans.

The loans actually ENSLAVE the student...the opposite of it's intent...and enrich academia. :roll: But that's a whole new thread.
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Post by mudfud »

daryll40 wrote: Sure, she might find it on her own but that is very doubtful as she doesn't know my screen name and doesn't know where to look for forums like this etc. .
Don't underestimate Google. All she has to do is to take any sentence (preferably long) put it in quotation marks (to increase specificity), and this thread will show up. For example, I took the first sentence of your first post "My daughter is in 11th grade and is looking at some expensive private Universities" and Googled it and this thread is the FIRST (and only) result. The latest responses won't show up now, but give Google a couple of days, and they will be there as well.
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WiseNLucky
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Post by WiseNLucky »

mudfud wrote:
daryll40 wrote: Sure, she might find it on her own but that is very doubtful as she doesn't know my screen name and doesn't know where to look for forums like this etc. .
Don't underestimate Google. All she has to do is to take any sentence (preferably long) put it in quotation marks (to increase specificity), and this thread will show up.
That assumes that she knows her Dad is even participating on an investment bulletin board, let alone that he is talking about her on it. If she knew those two things, she could easily find this thread. But I doubt she knows those two things.
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Post by daryll40 »

She does not know either and even if she does find this it's not that big a deal. But I am not going VOLUNTARILY show her my cards. :lol:
PittPanther
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Post by PittPanther »

Sorry I'm very late to this thread. It has been very interesting.

I attended Penn State (and Pitt) a long time ago and currently live in Pa. Penn State is one of the most expensive state colleges in the country. So when comparing it with other private colleges, the cost differential is much less than if you are comparing a typical state school with a private college.

I have a nephew who is from Maryland who will soon graduate from Penn State. He tried everything he could to become an in-state student without success. As I mentioned earlier, the in state tuition is high and the out of state tuition (around $750/credit I think) is about the same as many private schools.

While I think that Penn State is a very good school, I don't think it is a good value compared to most other state universities.
astro
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What does she intend to do?

Post by astro »

I've just skimmed the responses, but I haven't noticed anyone asking some very important questions... What does she want to get out of college? What does she plan to do with the degree after she's done? How open is she to changing her mind?

If she has a specific career in mind and she's fairly set on it, then I think that she and you can do some research and make a well thought out decision about the relative merits of various schools. For some career paths, attending the best possible universities for undergrad, graduate school, and postdoctoral positions is very valuable. For other career paths, it's only the final degree that matters. For other career paths, it's only that you got the degree that matters. Also, depending on career choice, the relevance of saving for grad school can vary widely, since it may or may not be important to get an additional degree, and even if it is, in some fields the graduate students are fully covered and even paid.

If she has a clear idea of what she wants to do, then find people who have followed similar paths and ask several of them what matters. Also look for whether the relevant departments are particularly strong/weak at each of the schools she is considering. On the other hand, if she doesn't have anything specific in mind and/or she's likely to change her mind, then I would guess that the incremental cost of a private university (particularly a second tier one that costs almost as much as a first tier one) is probably not worth it. But she/you still might decided to go that route because there is still a chance that she might elect to pursue a career where the doors opened by the top tier school become very valuable to her. I.e. you could view the extra cost as an expensive insurance policy.

Unfortunately, stereotypes are common in America. I think these extend to schools. I've had search committee chairs tell me their thoughts on graduates from different programs. Some people place significant weight on university (even discriminating between the top 3 schools in the field and the "second-tier" of the next half dozen). Other people have explained to me algorithims for ranking job candidates that did not even consider the school of the terminal degree (but it did consider statistics about their advisor).

That said, I think she/you should consider several factors other than "prestige". If she is thinking of some humanities degree and wants discussion based classes where faculty respond to what she says, then obviously schools with small class sizes have a humongous plus. Note that the "average" class size can be misleading. A school that requires all students to take a few very large lecture classes (often ones that the student is just doing to satisfy the requirement), but then offers much smaller classes for all the upper level classes in the students major can be a VERY good option. On the other hand, if the student wants to become a scientist, by far the most important educational experience will be working in some professors lab. While the classroom instruction might be better at a small private university, I think that is unlikely to make up for the opportunities available at a large research university (where classroom teaching is less likely to be a priority).

I can't speak for all fields, but in the physical sciences, faculty jobs are extremely competitive. And the tenure track at several of the elite private schools is so brutal that it's not uncommon for excellent scientists to turn down their job offers and instead move to a flagship state university. That means that many state universities have some very top faculty. At either an elite private university or a flagship state university, there will typically be many faculty members that would make excellent research advisors for an undergrad.
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Post by grumel »

Stupid question from a naive German with a very selective ( selctive after you entered ) University system at home: Why is no one talking about the rate of failure, not getting a degree ? Thats so uncommon even at the worst universities ?
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Congratulations, you just accomplished a coin-flip test

Post by dalevitt »

Darryl,

Once upon a time, a professor told me about the coin flip test. When facing a challenging decision, flip a coin and tell yourself that you'll accept the decision the coin makes for you. After the coin flip, test your gut reaction. If you feel really bad, you've got your answer about where you're really leaning.

By posting here, you've accomplished just that. Notice how the value/state-school people have weighed in and the response has been to defend the legitimacy of the private school choice. I think you know what you want. Go with that. You really should. If you were to send her to a state school -- which I don't believe your gut will let you -- then you'll kick yourself every time you visit, every time you talk to parents of her friends. This is a legitimate concern, really it is.

My guess is that you're torn also between forcing her the route that you went through. That's also ok, every parent wants to make ammends for their own path. My father hated Wharton underground and sent me to the University of Miami to study Marine Geology. I took a long path to get to back to a business career, which he had hated. Imagine that. But in your case, it seems clear that you and your daughter are fundamentally on the same page.

Send her to a private school. It's what she wants, and what you "secretly" want.

For my own two cents, eventually I ended up working for McKinsey as a consultant, after an MBA at Stanford. I know how resume screenings are done, rightfully or not, but people screen for several factors but school brand is one of the top. That's true at many places. People make assumptions, and "most competitive" schools are a recruiters feeding grounds. Most of the best national employers that I know set up shop at a limited # of schools, because they get access to a pre-selected list. Right or wrong, it's how it is.

It's also true that the psyche you set influences you for life, and that is greatly influenced by the crowd of those around you.

Can she succeed anywhere she goes? Probably, given that she is a hard worker and seems to be a class-act, by your recollection. But you can give her a slightly better head start and sleep better at night. Is there really a call to make here?

-Daniel
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