The Challenge Of Being Poor At America's Richest Colleges


#1

forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2013/11/27/the-challenge-of-being-poor-at-americas-richest-colleges/


#2

Personally I think so-called Ivy rated university are not a good idea for the poor. A public university is more affordable and just as good. We have a private University in my city that costs $40,000 per year and the poor students they accept with scholarships are graduating with $80-$100k of debt. Public universities in my States are about $8000 per yr, with Pell grants, work study and a scholarship I know students that have graduated with $10-20K in debt that they can quickly pay off.

Parents should always consider costs for their kid going to a college. Saddling a young person with such a huge debt load could lead to a very bad life for them in the long run.

IMHO. YMMV.


#3

I did not see it mentioned, but poor students also may have continued off-campus concerns about relatives that impact their work.

The KEY place to address educational disparity, of course, is well BEFORE the end of one’s education.


#4

I’m inclined to agree with you, but it depends on what part of the country you’re in. Around here, for example, you’re more likely to get hired with a degree from Mizzou, Mo State, or the University of Arkansas than you are with a degree from Princeton. Why? Because employers assume your expectations and background are mainstream if you went to the former.

I know what it’s like to go to a college where everybody is wealthier than oneself. However, I’ll add that back when I went, it was considered poor taste to flaunt wealth or be a big spender. Consequently, everybody lived about the same, dressed about the same and did about the same things for entertainment, with the single exception that the wealthier kids could go to ski resorts and things like that on breaks, whereas people like me couldn’t afford to do it. Interestingly enough, few of the wealthy kids even had cars.

That has changed. I think back then most of the well off kids were “first generation wealthy”, and their parents still had more humble ways and attitudes, at least I believe that was true of Catholics. On the other hand, schools that catered to the “long term wealthy” were different even years ago, and I think a lot of Catholic universities have gotten that way now.

I will add that a student can nevertheless adapt to wealth inequalities. There are a thousand ways to do it.

Finally, it’s just a fact that the schools with the largest endowments tend to be the ones that are the least generous with financial aid. One of the best “deals” in the private sphere is to find a relatively new (even Catholic) college. Otherwise, state schools are perfectly satisfactory in many places.


#5

I disagree. Poor students don’t pay tuition at top universities. If household income is less than $80K per year (or thereabouts)…tuition is zero…and I believe room and board is to. That is why everybody fills out the FAFSA (student aid) forms every year.

Also, there is a huge value to the connections made at the top universities (Ivy, Stanford, MIT, etc). My son attends one, and while we might be considered “upper-middle”, he is in the lower end of the income scale at his school. Not only is he making connections with very well-to-do students, he’s also making connections with the crazy-smart who will be the next leaders in industry and the country. Yes, you can find those kids at state schools, but not in the concentrations at these top universities.

A poor student, IMHO, if they are academically talented, is much more likely to make connections that will bust their family out of a cycle of poverty. And to emphasis a point just made by Ridgerunner, in today’s economic climate, top companies will recruit at top universities first. A 3.0 gpa business degree major from Harvard is waaaaay more likely to land a good paying job that a 4.0 student from Podunk State University.

Now having said that, it does need to be a top ranked university. There are a lot of private colleges that charge a lot of money, similar to an Ivy League school tuition, that will just land in you in a lot of debt with nothing to show for it.


#6

I have taught at an elite wealthy institution and it definitely was an eye opener. If you are an elite of the elite student, an ivy league school can open doors for you that you will find hard to open any other way. For example, if you want to be an investment banker at one of the top firms, you almost have to graduate from a top school. If you want to go to graduate school at MIT or Harvard, it really helps to have people who know the professors there writing your letters of recommendation. On the other hand, if you want to be a teacher or a nurse, there is probably little reason to go ivy league.

I do think a poor person would have more trouble fitting in though. Those ivy league students had no trouble spending money and it could be embarrassing to say no when everyone else is going out for a $30 meal.

I did see a map of where new admissions to an ivy league school came from and it was almost all from the wealthy part of the coasts. So there is probably less meritocracy than meets the eye and more parents paying for the consultants that give you an advantage in such a system.


#7

It is true that if you go to an elite boarding school, which also means your family has money, that the odds are much higher to attend a top school. However, there are students who are not rich (I include mine in that category), and you are an elite student, then there are opportunities, albeit fewer than if your family had big bucks. My son was valedictorian, lettered in two varsity sports, and was quit outgoing and personable. He was turned down by 2 top schools, wait listed at a 3rd, and accepted at a 4th.

To your first point: investment banks are hiring students at his school with “American Studies” degrees. If my son graduated from the state school I went to with the same degree, he would be unemployed!

As far as not fitting in…small price to pay for the opportunity. That diploma will be worth gold!


#8

I would like to know at which top universities, tuition (also perhaps room and board) are free if your family income is under $80,000.00.

Now, I would agree you are almost certain to get “financial aid”, but most of that will be in the form of student loans. Also, if your SAT, especially if combined with the GPA pull up the university’s average, you might well get a scholarship.

But by and large, top universities are extremely ungenerous. they don’t have to be generous, and aren’t.

I think perhaps you misunderstood what I said about Mizzou vs. Princeton. Where I live, the Mizzou degree would be preferred to the Princeton degree, all other things being equal. And that’s true of top employers as well, of which there are a significant number in this area. I suppose it’s “reverse snobbery”, but it’s also a local affinity for “root hog or die” kinds of applicants. If you are an ivy league grad, you’re likely to be avoided unless you have local connections. If you have the latter, the ivy league education will be forgiven.

One exception is education. If your PhD is from Harvard, you’re more likely to be hired at Mo. State than if your PhD is from Mizzou.

But a Wall Street investment bank (a long way from here) preferring Harvard? I wouldn’t doubt it for a moment. Old school ties and that sort of thing.


#9

Dartmouth offers free tuition without loans to families with incomes under $100k. I believe Yale does the same. I think you can characterize that as pretty generous.

dartmouth.edu/~finaid/

I think perhaps you misunderstood what I said about Mizzou vs. Princeton. Where I live, the Mizzou degree would be preferred to the Princeton degree, all other things being equal. And that’s true of top employers as well, of which there are a significant number in this area. I suppose it’s “reverse snobbery”, but it’s also a local affinity for “root hog or die” kinds of applicants. If you are an ivy league grad, you’re likely to be avoided unless you have local connections. If you have the latter, the ivy league education will be forgiven.

This may be true, but it may also be that few ivy league grads are willing to work for employers in Missouri outside of St Louis and Kansas City, mainly because outside of the big cities they probably can’t offer the salaries to temp ivy league grads.

One exception is education. If your PhD is from Harvard, you’re more likely to be hired at Mo. State than if your PhD is from Mizzou.

My hunch is that the directional state schools in MO would much rather look at a Mizzou grad than Harvard. No Harvard Ph.D can go into his advisers office and ask for a letter of recommendation to go to Cape Girardeau. And the good people in Cape Girardeau probably wouldn’t interview the person from Harvard anyway, the Harvard grad probably would never be happy there, too much teaching too little research support.


#10

Ivy league schools, Stanford, Notre Dame to name a few give grants and not loans based on financial need. My kids go to two top 25 colleges…I had approx 40K knocked off the total tuition bill between the two colleges this year because I’m not a gazillionaire. I still owe a lot, but this year, I don’t have to come up with that additional $40K.

Actually, Harvard seems to be relatively fair. They will limit tuition to 10% of the household income…at least that is what I last read (my kids don’t go there). The other ones are very expensive ($55K per year incl room and board). The worst income range is middle to upper middle. You’re not poor enough to get free tuition, and not rich enough to where it really doesn’t hurt. That range pays a higher % of their household income on tuition that the others.

I do get your comment about the local ties, but I think it depends on the industry. If you are going into sales, local ties are huge, and much more desired than where you got your degree. If you are going into investment banking, computer programming, big business , then top colleges dominate (in my experience).


#11

I am very happy for your son. The other advantage is the peer effects of being with other high quality students means that on average everyone learns more. At the state schools, even the good one, students are very diverse in their abilities which makes it more difficult to push the good ones.

You would be amazed that the number of english majors working in investment banks. I do agree that the opportunity at an elite school is too good to pass up, especially when they are paying for it, or most of it.


#12

I’ll take a look at the generosity. Usually if you look closely, there’s a catch to “need blind” admissions. Generally, there is an inverse relationship between the “prestige” of a school and the actual grants they give out. But they will most definitely “buy talent” to keep their statistics up.

It might be that salaries are higher in St. Louis and KC for highly educated and talented people than around here, but I doubt it. Some of the employers I know draw people away from big city employers. Quality of life also matters. A very significant number of the top medical specialists here are from much larger cities. If you ask them why they’re here, quality of life, conditions of practice, and cost of living is what they’ll tell you. Maybe they’re lying, but I doubt it. That’s also why, e.g., the top execs of companies like O’Reilley Automotive, Bass Pro, Tracker Marine, TSN, Walmart, J.B. Hunt, JKHY, move here if they get the chance or stay here if they’re already here. If some ivy league grad thinks he’s too good to live in Springfield, Springdale or Bentonville, despite the salaries those execs make, then it’s a good thing, really, for local men and women.

Are you seriously saying no Harvard PhD would ask his advisor for a recommendation to SEMO state? (That’s what’s in Cape, not Mo State or Mizzou) Are they that snotty at Harvard? Would the advisor spit on the grad and refuse to do it? Would the Harvard grad be so ashamed of himself and his preferences in life that he wouldn’t even ask? If that’s so, what a terrible world those people live in!

But I expect you might be right in supposing that the average prof at Mizzou or Mo State probably spends more of his/her time teaching than one at, say, Princeton. But of course, if a professor spends all his/her time in research, he really isn’t doing the students a whole lot of good.

I think I’m beginning to see confirmation of why it is that local employers do not prefer ivy league grads.


#13

I received my BA at the University of South Florida, then went to John Carroll University for my MBA and the Cleveland-Marshal College of Law for my JD. No Harvard, Yale or Princeton sheepskins in my pedigree, yet I’ve made a very good living as an attorney. Guess I’m lucky.


#14

Maybe not just lucky. Attorneys are judged, first of all, by those who initially hire them (usually an existing law firm). Law firms can certainly be exploitive, but the big value is productivity. Eventually, and whether one is in a firm or on his own, the judgment of the clients and potential clients is everything. Land a few good verdicts and deal with the client properly, and pretty soon a wide range of people know about it, and will choose you over somebody else regardless of where he or you went to school. Fail at it and you’re sunk, no matter what.

An attorney friend of mine who does very well has said to me something that was both amusing and enlightening. When, back in 2009, 2010, 2011, the big city firms were laying off their high-end attorneys right and left, he commented: “Well, I would have to be fired by a whole lot of people to be as fired as those guys are by one person”. In other words, he had developed a good clientele by working at it, and was virtually immune to adverse outcomes. He graduated from a law school I had never heard of, and still haven’t from anybody but him.


#15

I would say that the probably don’t need to be generous, but some of the top universities have actually made a bit more of an effort to attract high quality students from lower income backgrounds.

It might be that salaries are higher in St. Louis and KC for highly educated and talented people than around here, but I doubt it. Some of the employers I know draw people away from big city employers. Quality of life also matters. A very significant number of the top medical specialists here are from much larger cities. If you ask them why they’re here, quality of life, conditions of practice, and cost of living is what they’ll tell you. Maybe they’re lying, but I doubt it. That’s also why, e.g., the top execs of companies like O’Reilley Automotive, Bass Pro, Tracker Marine, TSN, Walmart, J.B. Hunt, JKHY, move here if they get the chance or stay here if they’re already here. If some ivy league grad thinks he’s too good to live in Springfield, Springdale or Bentonville, despite the salaries those execs make, then it’s a good thing, really, for local men and women.

If you look at the data from the link below, Chief Executives average about $52 an hour in Southwest Missouri and about $83 an in Kansas City. Compare that to Boston which averages $96 an hour. And other business and other wages follow similar patterns. Quality of life is highly subjective. I personally would like the rural lifestyle, but I know others who couldn’t imagine being away from a big area like NY or Boston. To each his own. Also, if Southwest Missouri was paying more money and ivy league grads turned them down to stay in Boston or NY, you can accuse them of being too good to live in SW missouri, but not if they have to take a pay cut.

bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm#S

Are you seriously saying no Harvard PhD would ask his advisor for a recommendation to SEMO state? (That’s what’s in Cape, not Mo State or Mizzou) Are they that snotty at Harvard? Would the advisor spit on the grad and refuse to do it? Would the Harvard grad be so ashamed of himself and his preferences in life that he wouldn’t even ask? If that’s so, what a terrible world those people live in!

Going to a less well ranked teaching oriented school is really frowned upon in the top Ph.D programs. I would say probably less so in the low demand fields such as history or sociology. Missouri State does have a Harvard Ph.D in their history department, but several from Mizzou. My guess is going to Mizzou is more likely to be acceptable and they probably have several top PhD programs grads on their faculty.

But I expect you might be right in supposing that the average prof at Mizzou or Mo State probably spends more of his/her time teaching than one at, say, Princeton. But of course, if a professor spends all his/her time in research, he really isn’t doing the students a whole lot of good.

I think I’m beginning to see confirmation of why it is that local employers do not prefer ivy league grads.

At the top schools, teaching is not considered all that important, it is set up for research not teaching. The culture of research can build a reputation for a school, that is why Harvard graduates are so sought after. I am not convinced that the quality of teaching is better at Harvard than at Mizzou, but they do attract better quality students at least from the standard measures of student quality. It may well be that the peer effects of being with smarter students outweigh the negative effects of lower quality teaching.


#16

There is a difference between individual achievements and average achievements. There is much more variability within individuals. My guess is that the average Harvard grad starts out at a higher salary than a Cleveland-Marshall grad. But there are some CM grads that will out earn Harvard grads, especially over the long run. Also, you can make a good living in a variety of ways, with or without college degrees.


#17

This is a huge statement…I absolutely believe it to be true. My oldest has multiple friends he spends a lot of time with who are engaged in multiple business start-ups. His peers are doing very innovative things, and many, as undergrads, are already working for the most cutting edge companies like google, microsoft or twitter. You will find very smart people at many, many schools, however, these smart people are in very high concentrations at the top schools. You would have to seek them out in many state schools, but you will trip over them at the top schools.


#18

Parents should also consider the kind of education a person gets at a typical state university/college. Secularism, progressive political indoctrination, etc. were all missing from the Lutheran college my daughter attended. It was worth the money.

Jon


#19

I think the amount of indoctrination varies based on the major. I went to state schools for all of my education and I received virtually no indoctrination in my field of economics. I did have one professor who as an undergraduate openly told us he was a democrat (albeit a free trader), but that is as close to indoctrination as I ever got. I also wonder about the long run effect of indoctrination, because it is not like everyone graduating from college becomes liberals.


#20

Oddly, even in high school my economics class was all Keynesian. :rolleyes: But you’re right, it does vary from school to school and department to department. My daughter was in education, and state colleges of education are almost exclusively progressive, both in pedagogy and politically.
What doesn’t vary greatly is the lack of conservative viewpoints.

Jon


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