Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How do you pick a college?

Our oldest daughter turns 14 next month. I expect in four years she'll be getting ready to off to college. We think, now and then, a little about to which college she might go. Thomas Sowell cautions parents not to mortgage the house to get their child into the most expensive colleges. In Is Prestige Worth It? he writes:

The obsession of many high school students and their parents about getting into a prestige college or university is part of the social scene of our time. So is the experience of parents going deep into hock to finance sending a son or daughter off to Ivy U. or the flagship campus of the state university system.
Sometimes both the student and the parent end up with big debts from financing a degree from some prestige institution. Yet these are the kinds of institutions that many have their hearts set on.
Media hype adds to the pressure to go where the prestige is. A key role is often played by the various annual rankings of colleges and universities, especially the rankings by U.S. News & World Report. These rankings typically measure all sorts of inputs-- but not outputs.
The official academic accrediting agencies do the same thing. They measure how much money is spent on this or that, how many professors have tenure and other kinds of inputs. What they don't measure is the output-- what kind of education the students end up with.


He explains that a group at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity ranks colleges based on what the students go on to do in life. Thomas Sowell strong encourages parents to check out Choosing the Right College as being the best guide for helping a son or daughter select a good college. I'll get it from the library, and maybe later I'll buy it.

Technorati tags: college, university, tuition, education, rising, cost, online


Anonymous said...

That's something we're pondering right now. Do we send our son to the local state university, where he can go for free (DH is on faculty there), or do we send him to a small private Christian college? We have only 2 more years to figure this one out...

Anonymous said...

I picked my university because it was smaller and cheaper than LSU, and close to friends and family. Prestige means nothing to me.

Henry Cate said...

smallworld - Another option that we've considered some is doing some of the college experience online when our daughters are sixteen and seventeen. Good luck in helping your son figure out where he goes.

Angela - I made a similar choice. I went to a local state university. I think prestiage is overrated.

Crimson Wife said...

It really depends on what your children want to do with their lives. There are certain industries where it is extremely difficult to get one's foot in the door without a degree from an elite university.

My DH has a friend who's a graduate of UVA (which most people would consider to be an excellent school) and he actually had an interviewer complain to his face one time that the headhunter shouldn't have sent him over for an interview because he hadn't attended an Ivy League school. Unfortunately that kind of prejudice is pretty common in my DH's industry (though people typically aren't as outspoken about it).

Another thing to keep in mind is that with the new financial aid policies at many of the top colleges, it may now cost less to send your child to Harvard than to a UC school.

Henry Cate said...

Crimson wife - good point. Right now my oldest daughter doesn't seem to have anything specific picked out. My second daughter decided a couple years ago she wanted to be a writer. She's been pretty focused on this. She continues to work on developing her writing skills.