Thursday, February 10, 2011

Yale Law School rejected me, and that's never hurt me. (Except my feelings.) (Stuff, and Junk.)

If you're thinking about going to an expensive school, or urging your kid to go to an expensive school, stop and think/consider more, because it may not be worth it.

I've always told my kids that the school you go to -- and the grades you get -- are important only for your first job, and after that it's skills that matter. I didn't just say that because 2 years of my education came from UW-Waukesha, but because I knew it to be true from my own experience -- and now there's research to back me up:

How far will a degree from an elite college get you? A new working paper ... tries to answer that question by examining labor-market outcomes for Israeli students at Hebrew University (a leading university) and the College of Management Academic Studies (a “professional undergraduate college”). The authors found that a degree from an elite college will help you get a foot in the door, but skill quickly triumphs. “Our results support a model in which employers have good information about the quality of HU graduates and pay them according to their ability, but in which the market has relatively little information about COMAS graduates,” the authors conclude. “Hence, high-skill COMAS graduates are initially treated as if they were the average COMAS graduate, who is weaker than a HU graduate, consequently earning less than HU graduates. However, over time the market differentiates among them so that after several years of experience, COMAS and HU graduates with similar entry scores have similar earnings. Our results are therefore consistent with the view that employers use education information to screen workers but that the market acquires information fairly rapidly.”

(Source.) I didn't go read the paper to figure out how quickly it adds up, but consider this:

Going to UW-Stevens Point costs about $12,000 per year. Going to Harvard costs (for tuition and room and board) about $49,000 per year. A Harvard grad will therefore spend at least $148,000 more to get a 4-year degree than a UW-Stevens Point grad. So unless that Harvard grad, over the course of a career, earns $148,000 more than the Stevens Point grad, that money was wasted. And the study suggests that "after several years" the "Prestige U" advantage goes away -- so that Harvard grad better earn a lot more right off the bat.

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