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Are Elite Schools Worth the Cost?

It seems like over the last few weeks, as high school students are about to graduate and matriculate to college, there have been a host of stories all over the media about the maddening cost of an education at elite universities—and whether or not going to these schools is worth the sticker shock and the debt load that a student and/or his or her parents will carry.

CNN ran a two-part series on the issue. (Video of part one is below.) It culminated in getting one NYU grad to admit he regretted his $250,000 decision to go to the prestigious Manhattan university over another college where he was offered a free ride.


Over at the Daily Kos, another former NYU grad compared the cost of his education to what a student would pay to get his or her schooling at nearby Brooklyn College. NYU is five times more expensive. So is it five times as good as Brooklyn College?

For an undergraduate education, he says, it isn't: I often look back and believe I should have gone to Brooklyn College or City College and saved the debt load for my professional studies. I borrowed many thousands of dollars from Citibank and Sallie Mae just like Ms. Munna. In fact, I remember Sallie Mae sending me checks directly for obscene amounts of money. I quickly paid that forward to various cabbies and scantily-clad bartenders in the East Village. I later calculated some of those beers set me back $28 with interest. I was in my late 20s when I went to school. One can only imagine what a 20 year old would do. When I advise young people these days, I tell them: Don't go into debt for Harvard College. Go into debt for Harvard Law School.

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I keep thinking about what some elite colleges would say in rebuttal to these economic arguments. At their schools, you'd be surrounded by a more accomplished student body? They have deep alumni networks that can help in your future career? Exposure to multiple Nobel laureates? Better academic resources?

What are some of the other arguments for breaking the bank on your undergraduate education?

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Photo (cc) via Flickr user jpellgen.

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