Harvard University is considered to be the most prestigious university in the world. When people hear someone went to Harvard University, they immediately give superior respect.
After reading this article by Marty Nemko, my perspective on Harvard University completely changed.
Here is part of an article:
Paradoxically, the quality of instruction at brand-name colleges is likely to be worse than at no-name institutions. Many professors interested in undergraduate teaching avoid places like Harvard or Stanford because teaching is all but ignored in hiring and promotion. The Carnegie Foundation’s Ernest Boyer was only half-joking when he said, “Winning the campus teaching award is the kiss of death when it comes time for tenure.” Class sizes at places like Harvard are unconscionable. A freshman or sophomore is likely to spend half of class time in an auditorium. How absurd that these places charge $150,000 for four years to educate our best and brightest yet have the nerve to so heavily use the cheapest, least effective method of instruction: the large lecture. Fact: prestigious universities are mainly in the business of doing research. As one astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley said, “Undergraduate teaching is a necessary evil.”
So it’s no surprise that the definitive review of the literature (Astin, 1997) finds absolutely no relationship between a college’s cost and the amount of learning that accrues. Perhaps more surprising, a number of major studies (summarized in Pascarella et al, 1996) found that students, even high-ability students, learn as much at a community college (where teaching is Job One) as they would have had they spent their first two years at a four-year college. And the U.S. Department of Education (Adelman, 1999) found that students who, after the first two years, transfer to a four-year college, have the same chance of completing their bachelor’s degree as those who started at four-year colleges. In short, there is no evidence that attending a high-sticker-price college results in greater learning.
Many low-cost colleges have patches of Ivy called the honors program: Ivy-caliber students taught in small classes by the institution’s top professors. The honors program usually continues outside the classroom with optional honors residence halls and special extracurricular activities. And because an honors program is embedded in a regular campus, a student who wants to moderate the pressure, can do so by taking fewer honors classes and hanging out with non-honors students. This isn’t an option at an Ivy League college. This is a more important benefit than might first be apparent. The second most common complaint at Harvard’s student health service is stress and burnout.
Although it’s easier to make connections at a prestigious college, it’s far from certain that you’ll make connections that will actually help your career. As you’ll see below, many, many students, having mortgaged their family’s financial security by attending an expensive private college, graduate feeling disillusioned, even ripped off.
You might protest, “But look at the most successful people! So many came from places like Harvard and Yale.”
Yes, Ivy graduates are disproportionately represented in top positions, but that doesn’t mean the college was causal. On average, Ivy-caliber kids are smarter, come from better schools, and have brighter, better-connected parents. You probably could lock Ivy-caliber high school in a closet for the four years of college and, on average, they’d end up with much better careers than other students.
A study reported in the American Economic Review concluded that even in terms of earnings, “What matters most is not which college you attend, but what you did while you were there. (That means choosing a strong major, choosing professors carefully, getting involved in leadership activities, getting to know professors)…Measured college effects are small, explaining just one to two percent of the variance in earnings.” (James, et al, 1989).
Loren Pope, in Colleges That Change Lives (Penguin, 1996) wrote that in 1994, “the New York Times reported that a quarter of Harvard’s class of 1958 had lost their jobs, were looking for work, or on welfare, just when their careers should have been cresting…Many in the class of ’58 thought their degrees ensured career success. They were wrong.” The autobiographical sketches written for the 35th reunion “did not radiate with expressions of success and optimism” said author and Yale professor Erich Segal. Quite the contrary, they seemed like a litany of loss and disillusion.” And Harvard was not alone. Alumni groups at other Ivy League schools, the author added, “are reporting that their members in growing numbers are suffering from the upheavals in corporate America. If there is a lesson in all this it is that a degree from a college like Harvard is no longer the lifetime guarantee of success in careers that it used to be.”
In addition to the money savings of attending No-Name College versus Ol’ Ivy, there’s the enormous benefit of your child not having to prostitute himself to get in. It hurts me to see what Ivy aspirants do in their often futile attempt to get into these not-worth-it institutions. In tenth grade, they may sign up for PSAT prep tutors–and the PSAT doesn’t even count! They go on to take SAT prep courses on top of all the rest of their courses, and may take the SAT two or three times in hopes (usually vain) of getting a score improved-enough to enhance their chances of admission. In eleventh grade, they start taking Advanced Placement classes that are often filled with material that is hard but not important. After school, they join clubs or do community service mainly because it will look good to the colleges. Kids who don’t give a damn about rowing a boat, suddenly in the eleventh grade, force themselves to wake at three in the morning every day to freeze their butts off rowing a boat so they can list “crew team” on their college applications. In summers, although they may be sick of school, they enroll in yet more school by attending overpriced college-based summer programs in the unrealistic hope that it will impress the colleges. In senior year, they complete 8-10 long, essay-laden applications to hard-to-get-into colleges to maximize their chances that at least one will say yes. And as a reward, each year, many thousands of these Ivy aspirants are rejected from all Ivys to which they applied and end up attending a perfectly fine and less expensive college to which they could have been admitted without having had to endure that ordeal.
Just think, if your child applies only to easier-to-get-into public colleges, she can have a more rewarding high school life, in which she did activities because she finds them interesting rather than just to impress. And yes, attending Low-Cost College means you’re far less likely to risk your financial security.