’10 Reasons to Skip the Expensive Colleges’

by Grace

This list is for families trying to decide if spending $250,000 for an undergraduate degree at an elite (or not so elite) private college  is really better than spending $75,000 for a state school.  You can read more details underlying these broad assertions here, along with the 400+ comments generated by this article.

The two biggest takeaways are:  1) Do not assume unmanageable debt to attend any college, even an  “elite” one.  2) Investigate the facts supporting any claims in the school’s shiny marketing brochures.

  1. Beginning adulthood without debt is worth far more than a designer diploma.
  2. Research universities are no place for undergraduates.
  3. Colleges are overrun by administrators.
  4. The star professors touted in college brochures probably won’t be teaching your kid.
  5. The college’s best professors may not even be on campus.
  6. Don’t be seduced by the luxuries they show you on the tour.
  7. Your tuition may be subsidizing a college president’s $1 million-plus salary.
  8. High-powered athletic programs drain money from academics.
  9. Going to an elite university does not guarantee success.
  10. Honors colleges at public universities can offer as fine an education as the Ivy League.

6 Comments to “’10 Reasons to Skip the Expensive Colleges’”

  1. There are research universities that are good places to be an undergrad (UCSC, for example) and others that are not so good. Generalizations like these here are rather misleading.

    Some state universities are overshadowed by their athletic programs (like Michigan State), but not all are (UCSC has no athletic scholarships).

    Some of the elite privates provide enough grant aid that they come out cheaper than the state schools.

    The key points are
    1 Beginning adulthood without debt is worth far more than a designer diploma.
    9 Going to an elite university does not guarantee success.


  2. Alll good points, Bonnie. The list is very general, but you have to look at the details.

    Weeds in the sidewalks could be a positive marker for a good college? 🙂


  3. Agreed on the key points.

    I’m wondering if there are any specific resources to help learn which research universities are stronger for undergrads. There is probably specific information that should be rooted out of a particular school, but I’m not sure what that would be.


  4. I don’t know any good way to determine whether a particular university is good for undergrads in general, and I have even less of a clue about how to pick one for a specific student (like my son). All research universities will say that they involve the undergrads in research, but the extent to which this is available and is genuine research (and not just slave labor in a lab) varies enormously even within a single school.

    Good facilities make a difference in some fields (can’t do theater tech without lighting and sound boards, art is helped by having print studios, foundries, and various other tools, science research opportunities are often tied to having available lab equipment, … ). But too much money spent on stadiums and recreational facilities is often a warning sign of distorted institutional priorities.


  5. In other words, it’s complicated. And as much as you try to find the right “fit” with a particular college, sometimes it just doesn’t work out.


  6. The Princeton guide is not bad, but a real down and dirty insider’s look would be great.


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