More in the "Is Elite Higher Education Worth It?" Conversation

from the Washington Post’s Wonkblog

Private colleges are a waste of money for white, middle class kids

“Many parents whose kids have their eye on an exclusive, private college face a difficult question: Is it worth unloading your life’s savings or having your child take on tens of thousands of dollars in student loans?

Fortunately, for many Americans — white, middle-class kids — there’s an easy answer: Don’t pay more to go to a private college.

And the answer to the question is much more complicated for kids from families in other racial socioeconomic groups. But for white kids with well educated parents, what matters is getting a college degree, not where it came from.

“The happiest people, in general, were the ones who developed a relationship with a mentor, par-ticipated in extracurricular activ-ities or took on a major academic project — all things you can do at any school.”

The answer is much more complicated for blacks, Hispanics and those whose parents are comparatively less educated.

In Dale and Krueger’s research, these groups did seem to make more money after attending more selective schools.

…attending an elite school might provide … access to a new social circle that provides them with more economic opportunities later in life. Children of well-educated whites might already have that access and so don’t gain anything from attending an elite school….

…other explanations. …students from different circumstances pick up from their peers a set of social cues or professional habits that allow them to fit in among America’s economically secure stratum….

But even for these groups, there are important caveats. … for some, borrowing to pay tuition at a private school could be a wise decision financially. Yet the more a student has to borrow, the less likely the investment is to pay off, and borrowing … is risky…. Costs can explode if a student takes longer than four years to graduate … and if the student drops out, debt can become impossible to manage. Alternative ideas — such as starting at a community or state university, then transferring to a private one — might also be attractive.

A Salary Plan for All that Addresses Income Inequality

Colleges Could Narrow the Income Gap on Campuses

Growing inequality threatens our society.
A few years ago, such a provocative claim might have had limited support beyond a public park in lower Manhattan. Today a rising tide of voices warns of the ill effects of the increasing concentration of wealth and income. The warnings come from academics like Thomas Piketty, politicians like Sen. Elizabeth A. Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and, at times, President Obama. Now even the self-described “zillionaire” Nick Hanauer, in a recent Politico article, implores us to avoid what he characterizes as an impending rush of pitchforks.
At St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a public honors college, a group of faculty and staff members, students, and alumni have put together a proposal that would permanently cap the growing ratio between the top and bottom earners on the campus. The St. Mary’s Wages plan would establish a benchmark minimum salary for the lowest-paid full-time employees that would rise with inflation. Tenure-track faculty members would make at least twice that benchmark. Different groups of workers (for example, associate professors, professional-staff members) would be guaranteed wages above specified fixed multiples of the lowest salary.