Archive for the ‘Statistics/Outside Data’ Category

When I attended Duke back in 2002, a typical Ivy(ish) education ran about $200,000. As of 2015, it has breached $250,000 at some schools, and continues to rise:


Some of those who comment or write to me still don’t seem to understand the implications of taking out a quarter-million dollars in debt… nor do they see why I set such high standards for an education with such a superfluous price tag. Is it unreasonable to expect an extortionate experience to be anything less than golden opportunity on a silver platter?

Let’s consider the alternatives abroad.

Oxford or Cambridge, while among the most expensive in Europe, have costs that pale in comparison to their American counterparts. I’ll leave you to do your own analysis, but suffice it to say, it’s a lot less money for no less value or name recognition:


But of course, there are plenty of other choices around the globe, from Europe to Canada to Singapore. If I were to pursue another university degree, I’d either do it at a public institution (if I stayed in the US), or I’d do it abroad: the private American system simply doesn’t make good financial sense anymore. The costs are absolutely crippling if you can’t qualify for a scholarship, so unless you have an extremely compelling reason to attend a particular institution, it’s hard to see why it would make sense to bite off more than you can (probably) chew.

Maybe you wish to pursue a career in subatomic physics, and having researched your options carefully, one university stands out above all others. But unless you have such a justification for choosing a private American education above the alternatives, little will justify the sacrifice of two limbs and half your soul to attain a scrap of paper from a “coveted” educational institution whose only real gift to you may be a lifetime of debt to one or more financial institutions.

Let’s take consider some other foreign offerings for comparison. In France, the most expensive university is the École Polytechnique, with a tuition of just €12,000. In Germany and Sweden, the costs are even lower… even for foreign students. These are not Third-World countries with substandard educational systems… quite the contrary. Yet their fees do not result in decades of debt.

As borrowings mount, it’s worth asking: what’s an education worth to you? If you have to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars, just think how much more you’ll have to earn professionally to put your ROI in the black. While a select swathe of degrees may be worthwhile… are you sure that yours will be?


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A college freshman wrote to me with some questions on Ivy League schools: their merit, their policies, and their preferences. My responses follow.

1. When interviewing my head of school, who attended Penn approximately 20 years ago, he told me “no one graduated without a job”. This obviously has changed, but why do you think that is? Do you think it is the quality of Ivy League schools that has gone down?

That certainly may be part of it, but it’s not the whole story. The first question is, what do we mean by a “quality” education? What makes one school better than another? Is it the practical (i.e. professional) value of the education? The challenge it provides? Perhaps it’s the social experience, or the values the university conveys? I think it’s fair to say that there’s been a dramatic demographic, socioeconomic, and political shift in the Ivies over the past fifty or so years, but that doesn’t necessarily imply anything about the quality of the coursework. My general impression is that many elite private universities have rather academic curricula compared to their public counterparts, in the sense that they aren’t geared to train students for the “real world.” I’m not opposed to taking courses out of personal interest, but I think most students who are fresh out of high school are hoping to gain some vocational skills as part of their education, and in that respect I think many top-rated private schools don’t deliver.


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One might think that America’s best universities would be intent on recruiting the top minds in the nation, but that’s often not the case. Instead, many highly-ranked private schools provide special preferences for anything but stellar academics. Brace yourselves: If you want a place at one of America’s elite universities, the answer may not be to study hard and get good grades, but rather to be born into the right circumstances – i.e., to be of the right race, religion, socioeconomic background, legacy status, or athletic ability.

Affirmative action – or just plain racism?

Not long ago, Harvard was charged with ethnic discrimination against Asian applicants. The following article discusses this issue at great length and suggests that the accusation is indeed well-founded. It additionally reveals a pattern of discrimination against gentile whites (Euro-Americans), as well as arbitrary favoritism toward Jewish students. Harvard employs an affirmative-action program to ensure that it has an abundance of ethnic minorities, but in the process knocks out some of its would-be best and brightest. How good can America’s top-rated university be if it’s not even meritocratic?


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Today I offer yet another laundry list of stories, this time focused on top-tier grads who face underemployment, some of whom work in minimum-wage positions.

Harvard to Homeless and Other Anecdotal Evidence Not to Go to Law School

“In April of 2009, almost one year after I had graduated from Ivy League, I began a pretty hardcore job search […] By September, I had my first job in the restaurant industry serving room service at 6 a.m. “

“So here I am. Eight years of experience, a Master’s degree, and an Ivy League school. You’d think I could at least get an entry-level position.”


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After receiving a submission from someone saying he had never met an unemployed Ivy Leaguer, I felt compelled to find more stories of graduates of elite universities who can’t find work. Turns out, it’s not difficult… the more I look, the more I find. Below are about 35 more articles chronicling cases of unemployment, underemployment, poverty, insurmountable debt, and general shock-and-awe stories coming from graduates of top-tier universities.

A new Stanford grad on food stamps

Yale grad: “Turns Out My Ivy League Education Is Worth Squat”

Columbia grad: “$60,000 Ivy League Degree Was Just a Pyramid Scheme”

55-year-old Dartmouth graduate is unemployed and homeless

Harvard Grad Seeks Babysitting Jobs

Princeton grad works at a video store

Dartmouth grad – “Ivy Leaguer Shocked By Likely Future As Burger Flipper”

Stanford grad, unemployed and living with parents, reflects on his first year after graduation

Yale, Penn, George Washington University sue graduates over loan debts that they can’t pay back

Stanford Law school grad turned call girl under house arrest after cheating the government

Emory Law Student Lament: ‘We don’t need donuts, we need jobs.’

Being an Unemployed Ivy League Grad

Even a Yale Pedigree Could Leave One Unemployed

Discussion –how many elite school grads are in those unemployed statistics?

The adventures of an unemployed Columbia grad

Unemployed Duke grad who got a spot on the TV show “The Apprentice” couldn’t even keep that

A self portrait created in 2003 may help this struggling, 2012 Duke graduate to find her way out of poverty

Cornell Grads Find Fewer Jobs, Earn Less Than In Previous Years

“Underemployment hits double digits for schools listed below ninth-ranked University of California, Berkeley.”

From Ivied Halls to Traveling Salesman (includes a UPenn grad)

Fewer University of Chicago and Northwestern law graduates finding jobs at law firms

“It’s interesting when an alumna suggests that a professor at her law school is interfering with her ability to find employment. And it’s downright sensational when the unemployed lawyer is a Stanford Law School graduate.”

9% unemployment for recent Georgetown grads

MIT grad still unemployed after a year

MIT computer science graduate couldn’t find a job

“Six months after graduating from Princeton University, 22-year-old Kati Henderson was still looking for work.”

Georgetown graduate unemployment rises

“Unhappy anniversary: My first year of joblessness” – Recent Johns Hopkins graduate wonders what Congress is doing to help

Discussion – Unemployed or underemployed recent Top-20 college grads

Report: Many Emory Law Students Underemployed After Graduation

“8 months out, no job… I guess my Ivy League Master’s Degree was a waste of money”

Ivy League degree, no job

Life after the Ivy League: Surviving unemployment without losing all self-confidence

Google Is Not Impressed by Your Fancy Ivy League Credentials

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One gentleman wrote in with a litany of complaints and personal criticisms. Below is a copy of this e-mail, with his comments in quotes and my responses in italics.

“You need to change the name of your blog.  You keep referencing the Ivy League when you didn’t even attend an Ivy League university.  You’re lucky the Ivy League hasn’t sued you for libel yet.”

You’re right, I didn’t attend an Ivy, but this blog isn’t just about me, and no other phrase is so quickly and readily associated with top-ranked schools. Many people refer loosely (albeit erroneously) to roughly the top 15-20 universities as the “Ivy League,” and for lack of a better term, I’m doing the same. I suppose I could call it the “The Ivy-and-Ivy-Equivalent Lie,” but somehow that just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so well. 

As for the accusation of libel: Last time I checked, our great nation still has something called the First Amendment. For me personally, college sucked, and I have every right to say what I please about my own experiences. As far as more general statements are concerned, it’s not libel unless it’s patently and demonstrably untrue, and there are plenty of articles cited on this blog to back up the assertions I’ve made.

“You made the wrong choice of school to attend.  You should’ve went to Yale or MIT.  Duke is a great school, but in reality, its national reputation doesn’t come close to Yale or MIT’s.  Regardless of the rankings, Duke is better known for its sports teams than for academics.”

Maybe. In my experience, the perception of any given school is heavily dependent on where you are and what job you’re applying for. On the East Coast, Duke seems to be very well-regarded, and to be known for having students were not only bright but also more well-rounded than some of their Ivy League counterparts. Duke has slipped a bit in the ratings the last decade – when I started there it was tied for 4th with Stanford and MIT – whereas now it’s hovering around #8 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Regardless, it’s consistently a Top -10 university, so I disagree that there’s a very substantial difference between Duke and say, Columbia or Princeton. And personally, I disagree that I would be better off had I attended Yale or MIT. The key problems for me would have applied at any of these universities – namely, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, the tuition was exorbitant, and the coursework was painfully difficult and utterly irrelevant to any profession. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t even apply for any of those schools, let alone consider attending one of them.


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Still dreaming of a spot at Princeton or MIT? Still believe that a diploma from Stanford or Yale will make all your dreams come true? Here are a few more links that might change your mind:

Ivy League Graduates on Food Stamps


Graduating into unemployment

“Nikki Muller, known for her viral YouTube video, “Ivy League Hustle,” still can’t make more than $14 an hour… [she] graduated from both Harvard and Princeton.”


Is an Ivy League Diploma Worth It?


Ivy League degree, no job


30s: Ivy League Unemployed

“Good-bye, Rat race. Good-bye, Bank Account.”


Unemployment Stories, Vol. Three: ‘Absolute Hell’

“I am a mid-30s female with an Ivy League graduate degree. I just received my third layoff in a little over four years.”


Unemployed Banker and Ivy Leaguer Reaches All Time Lows


Scamployment! The e-mail inbox of an Ivy League unemployed


Is the Ivy League a waste of money?

“Princeton professor and economist Alan Krueger set out to prove an Ivy League education paid off. He wound up proving exactly the opposite.”


From Ivy League to Unemployed: How College Grads Should Approach the Job Hunt


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