Phi Beta Cons

Real world examples

My post yesterday regarding Thomas Sowell’s opinion on the over-hyping of “prestige” universities elicited this thoughtful response:
I fully agree with the venerable Dr. Sowell about the nonsense of fancy and costly schools. When our daughters were looking at colleges, they both wanted the out-of-state adventure, but also worried about the handicaps they would surely face by not going to an “elite” institution. I told them that they could get a perfectly good education at almost any state university, the key being what they put into it. I further promised them that if they did their parts, we would get them through their undergraduate degrees with no debt.
They both completed at least one full year at a (worst prestige of all) community college here under a unique Minnesota program that allows completion of high school in a college, with the state sending the student school allocation to the college; then they transferred all the credits to Michigan State and UNC-Charlotte. They both graduated with no debt, and applied for grad school. One is now a life sciences engineering prof at Cambridge (UK, after getting a Minnesota PhD), the other is defending next month and then teaching the diplomatic history survey course at Georgetown, Spring semester. They each mentioned in grad school that they were sort of intimidated by people in their grad programs who came from Berkeley, Brown, Stanford, etc. In each case, the lowly state school grads are at least as successful as any of them.
I suspect that the one case remaining where prestige pedigree could make a difference is if historian younger daughter were to try to work in government; they still often tend to prefer fluff to achievement, since so many of them took that route and have a stake in preserving the myth.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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