How Princeton Rates

Princeton must be a fantastic school. On the new U.S. News list it was tied with Harvard for first, and it ranked second on Forbes’s list, after Williams.

The Forbes list, which came out in August, is meant to measure outcomes — salaries, Rhodes scholars, mentions in Who’s Who, etc. It’s an alternative to the U.S. News list, which gives high priority to reputation among peers and how much money the school spends. So Princeton’s high spot on both lists would seem to validate the quality of its education — or at the very least, confirm that its graduates are winners.

But Princeton’s elevated reputation got something of a condescending sniff from Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus in their book Higher Education?

Princeton, they say, is committed to producing “national leaders,” which in their view means it is “supposed to produce a stream of Meg Whitmans,  Ralph Naders, and Woodrow Wilsons, plus a scattering of Scott Fitzgeralds and Eugene O’Neills” (references to past graduates). To see if it is retaining that impact, they looked closely at the Princeton class of 1973. They sent a survey to the 934 living graduates (312 responded), and conducted other research.

They found that no one in the class of 1973 “has served in cabinet or sub-cabinet positions, in either congressional chamber, as a federal judge or financial official, or as chief executive of a national corporation.” In Who’s Who in America they found only 26 Class-of-1973 graduates. And they weren’t overly impressed that the median income for the male members of the class was $175,000; for women, the median salary was $115,000.

They summed up: “The alumni we’ve come to know seem like pleasant people, but on the whole, few of them have been making history.”

Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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