Megan McArdle and Daniel Drezner had a candid conversation about what the past several months might mean for colleges and universities that aren't state affiliated. Check it out:
I'm a graduate of the University of Illinois, so I'm biased. I don't get it. I unapologetically subscribe to the results of just about every study that's ever been done on the subject: There's NO correlation between what you'll earn in the real world and what you pay for your college education. Furthermore, as a public university graduate, I wholly reject the argument that there's something magical about the learning experience of a private school. My classes were taught by mind-blowing professors who challenged me on a daily basis. I never felt like a number. I never "got lost" in any system. It was worth every state government supplemented penny for all the right reasons.
Since last September I've sent out 112 letters of recommendation for various high school students. 73 of them went to private schools (some Ivy, some small liberal arts, etc.). Public universities don't get as hung up on particulars when it comes to the admissions process, so my data is skewed. [I've seen just about every application there is to see over the years and I'm here to share the news: Private colleges and universities are much more demanding of students when it comes to the game of APPLYING to get in.]. What's the shot of this situation? Are my students having the rules of the game changed on them . . . in the middle of the game? Is yesterday's private school aspiration tomorrow's public school reality?
Drezner's most interesting comment dealt with the economics of brain power. If the best and brightest begin to move toward less expensive (aka, public) colleges and universities then won't those establishments become de facto academically elite (which, again, I'd like to suggest is already the case)? If so, what will be the long term consequences for private colleges? If the big secret gets out then what incentive will there be to pay $50,000 a year when $15,000 will get the job done better? When times get tough, adhering to tradition has its limits, and tradition (not academic superiority) is what fuels the private college and university system in this nation.
I attended a dinner party on New Year's Eve. It was a small gathering of remarkably successful friends: Private sector executives (some VP's, some partners, etc.), a couple of engineers, me (a teacher), and a flight attendant. The degrees at the table? UW Whitwater, UW Milwaukee, UW Milwaukee, UW Madison, Southeast Missouri State, UW Oshkosh, and the University of Illinois. We had a wonderful time.
And we felt quite adequate.
I don't mean for that to sound defensive. The theme of this post is simple, and if you've digested it, then you know that if I feel anything, it's as if I've gotten away with something. We're not exactly talking Will Hunting dressing down a Harvard kid in a Boston bar. A distant relative to that classic scene? Perhaps. Illinois did cost money, and it was considerably more than late fees at a public library.
But it was less . . . . wayyyyyyy less . . . than what Dartmouth would have set me back. And, if I may, it was worth every dollar saved.
A blog . . . in spite of how pathetic blogging actually is.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
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- ▼ January (26)