What is the added value of Ivy league schools?

The prices here ( http://most-expensive.net/college-tuition-university ) seem outrageous. Harvard costs 36K/y, Yale 46K/y.

I understand that many such universities must have higher costs to pay highly known teachers, equipment to do cutting edge research and land/building maintenance/improvement.

In terms of marginal utility though, are they worth it compared to ordinary schools? Are they only worth it to some people and if so, who and why?

You did notice that Harvard isn’t anywhere NEAR the most expensive university in the US? Some of those “Most Expensive” schools are really pretty ordinary, reputation wise. Bard ain’t no Harvard, that’s for sure.

Hell, a “public Ivy” like the University of Virginia is $46k, (33k in straight tuition) if you’re not from Virginia.

What’s an “ordinary” school to you? Highly selective universities are all pretty expensive.

I remember it being suggested that while there are students at state schools just as talented as those at Ivies, the admission process and course work at an Ivy works as kind of a vetting process for top tier businesses or law firms. The best companies will recruit at an Ivy League, because they know that the candidates are likely to have already gone through a rigorous application process and a high level of study.

I don’t remember where I read the study or theory, and I’m not going to look it up, but it made sense to me. (It might have been “Outliers”, but I’m not positive.)

That’s not the full picture, for Harvard at least. Their Zero to 10 Percent Standard drastically cuts the cost of tuition for students coming from low- to middle-income families, virtually eliminating it for those whose family earns less than $60,000/year.

There’s not much difference between the top students at Harvard and UVA or Penn State, but there’s an incredible difference between the average and bottom students. The dumbest student at Harvard is still relatively smart, and that’s huge from an employer’s perspective.

Yes, elite universities are typically more generous with their aid packages. I remember a Harvard or Yale representative came to visit my (public) high school, and said something like “we are committed to not having any student say no to us because of money.” From my friends that attended Ivy League schools for undergrad, they do seem to make the effort to help out.

Actually, the dumbest student at an ivy is probably a legacy and will likely invade Iraq given half a chance.

That was my experience as well. I went to a top-ranked private school for my undergraduate studies. (Technically not an Ivy League, but one commonly listed in the top ten in those college rankings that are often published.) Nominally it should have cost a fortune, but they actually took into account my family’s financial situation (which was very bad at the time) and figured out a financial aid package that allowed me to attend. Their philosophy, too, was that no student should say no because of money. And that was thirty years ago.

But only after proving smart enough to be put behind the controls of sophisticated jet fighters, becoming a millionaire businessman, serving two successful terms as governor of one of the U.S.'s largest states in the U.S., and posting I.Q. scores higher than those of the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.

So, yeah, the dumbest student at an Ivy League school is most likely a good deal smarter and more accomplished than the average bear.

As mentioned, the recruiting can be unreal. The networking opportunities are also tremendous: not only do you have contact with talented professors, but among your fellow students there are sure to be serious movers and shakers in the decades ahead. Furthermore, remember that “smart” isn’t enough to get in anymore: you pretty much have to be interesting. This may mean “highly driven future CEO who already started his own business by 18” but it can also mean “talented poet who plays semi-professional banjo”, “war refugee who went on to become validictorian”, “Ambassador’s child who has lived in seven different countries and met 20 heads of state”, etc. Being in that sort of atmosphere is stimulating, or at least interesting. The study abroad options are very good.

And, as mentioned, the financial aid is very, very good. I think over 50% get some kind of financial aid, and, frankly, many of the ones that don’t come from families where it really isn’t a problem.

Now, Ivys are certainly not the ONLY way to have a tremendous college experience: as far as value-for-your-buck these days, I think the honors programs at the really top state schools are probably where it’s at: their admissions are as competitive as the Ivys, you have the same access to top professors, and the tuition is low. The same recruiters visit these programs as the Ivy League schools.

Phew. For a second there I thought we were going to have to suffer through a whole thread without gratuitous political jabs.

Who am I?

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[li]I received an MA from Trinity College, Cambridge[/li][li]I am qualified to fly Harrier and Phantom fighter jets, Vulcan jet bombers and military helicopters.[/li][li]I have commanded a mine hunter in the Atlantic and I currently command the Gurkha Rifles, one of the most feared infantry units in the world.[/li][li]I too am a millionaire businessman, head of a multi-million pound property and retail organisation.[/li][li]In due course I will be responsible for over 2,000,000 km[sup]2[/sup] of the earth’s surface and economies worth over $5 trillion. [/li][/ul]
I am the Prince of Wales. I am as thick as two short planks, and rely on connections and inherited wealth and influence for my achievements.

I am an effective counter to your ludicrous statement.

…and this …

Generalizations, of course, but hit the essence of the value of an Ivy diploma.

Classroom experience counts for a lot. Of course there are exceptions, but at the higher-tier/more competitive schools the classes are filled with a higher percentage of over-achievers and people who pay attention in class. Discussions and whatnot can proceed at a faster pace and it’s easier to find quality discussion of the materials. Clearly possible at any school, but more likely in each class at the more competitive ones.
On a resume, it’s a real door opener. In days of yore when job seeking, having an Ivy on my resume stood out (in my perception of interviewers’ reactions). During later hiring processes, people with an Ivy school got more attention from other staff, particularly when we were going through a good-sized stack with lots of second-tier schools. Forthermore, name recognition counts for a lot–Columbia may be the same as Barnard education-wise, but name-wise, one gets noticed while the other stands out mostly to those who know that their pretty much the same school.

This is all tempered by a million other factors. Going from high school dropout to Ivy grad carried a lot of weight. Something as simple as knowing how to create and manage Access databases opened a lot of doors in smaller companies who had no idea they had such a powerful program at their disposal.

Of course, moving forward the most important factors are the club tie, the firm handshake, a certain look in the eye, and an easy smile.

I don’t see how. Not a thing you said undercuts Bush’s acheivements. He was a Yale graduate who subsequently made much more of himself that almost any other Yale graduate, so you can hardly write his education off to daddy’s influence. He became a self-made millionaire, unlike the vast majority of children of influential men and Yale graduates. He got himself elected governor of Texas on his own merits. He was very popular with the electorate and handily won reelction to a second term. He got himself elected president of the United States, proved himself popular with the electorate and handily won reelection to a second term. You can disagree with Bush’s actions in office all you want - I disagree with several of them myself - but anyone who claims Bush is stupid does nothing but reveal their own ignorance and political bias.

Please take the arguments regarding Bush et. al. to another thread; this one is to discuss the added value of Ivy League schools — not the intellectual abilities of politicians or princes.

Ellen Cherry
IMHO Moderator

The name itself has a value. Personally, I disagree with this practice (I have an Ivy degree), but I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen very capable people belittled for going to a State College. I’ve seen mediocre people praised for having gone to an Ivy. The hard part is, you can’t predict whether or not the guy hiring for your dream job covets flashy school names or not.

So yes, it can make a difference. But not always.

This is a key point. Comparing the cost of Harvard to the cost of in-state tuition at a public university is unfair. The latter is hugely subsidized.

I went to UCF, a Florida state university. It’s much harder to get in now than it was when I enrolled, but it’s still easier than the University of Florida or Florida State, except for certain programs. It’s $20,000 per annum for out-of-state students.

UCF’s business school was ranked last in the nation among those rated by Businessweek last year (the ranking doesn’t include Ivies, as far as I can tell). But here’s the thing: it ranked first for return on investment, because UCF business graduates make more or less exactly the same starting salary as graduates of every other business school.

So, what conclusions can we draw from this? Well, based on the rankings of the non-Ivy League private schools for return on investment, they’re a waste of money. That suggests the Ivies are too. On the other hand, the top 4 schools in the ROI category are in Florida, so maybe all it really tells us is that if you want to go to business school you should do it here.

The professors at State schools might teach the material the same way, but they can’t open doors like Ivy League professors can.

If you’re going into a profession that relies on networking, the Ivy League schools are they place you want to be. You can learn more about the culture of networking from just being around Ivy League students and professors than you can from doing anything else. That alone is worth the price of admission because you can’t get that anywhere else.

Note that the states have been reducing the amount of subsidy they’re providing to their public universities. And while the list price of the elite private universities like Harvard may be higher than the list price of the public universities, the elite schools are way more generous in terms of financial aid. So the net cost is often lower.

Professors and others at top state schools can open a lot of doors locally. Grads of the Ivies and equivalents can have doors opened nationally.