I am not quite sure why I clicked on a link to the Forbes article on America’s top colleges, but for some reason I did and I have to say I scratched my head at some of it and chuckled at more than or thing or two in their article. Let’s start with the average cost of a college degree in this country today. Also let’s keep things directly comparable and take two Bay Area colleges – Stanford and University of California, Berkeley. Forbes ranks them number 3 and 50 respectively. To get a degree from Stanford will run you about $250,000 and one from UC Berkeley about $100,000. So I first have to ask if a degree from Stanford is worth more than twice a degree from Berkeley. How many years will it take to make up that extra $150,000 because I am not sure a graduate from Stanford is going to get that much higher salary than one from Berkeley. But, I hear you say – what if the one from Stanford has a job and the one from Berkeley doesn’t. If we consider a high tech job, I am not sure I would favor one candidate over the other based on these two colleges; it would solely be on their capabilities.
So, I dug a little deeper because I was starting to get suspicious of the Forbes evaluation technique. They take into account several factors including student satisfaction, post-graduate success, student debt, graduation rates and academic success. Sounds reasonable, but soon gets quite hokey. Post graduate success is defined by things such as if they appear in Who’s who in America! What? I have had so many emails about being in there over the decades and what for! Who cares? Have you ever consulted it? I know I haven’t and never will. That is for people with over inflated egos. They also give extra points for people on the American leaders list. That only identifies the types of people they are and again their egos. And here in lies the overarching theme – ego and the people that feed them.
I really had to chuckle at one sub-category. Average Federal Student Loan Debt Load. Now you would think that someone paying $250,000 for college may rack up more debt than someone paying $100,000. Oh think again. Those paying the higher price are the ones with lower debt because their parents are footing the bill while those going to the lower priced colleges are probably working two jobs as well as going to college to pay their own way and maybe this affects their graduation and satisfaction ratings a little as well.
Now I know when I was looking at colleges in England, certain colleges have better track records than others in certain subjects. To take it to the extreme, I did not even consider Oxford or Cambridge – the top two colleges in England, because they had really bad engineering programs. I choose an almost unheard of college – Brunel, that concentrated on science and engineering and had practical courses in place that encouraged application of knowledge rather than just learning information. That was highly suited to my style preference and the college that was most likely to get me the job I wanted at the end. Actually I was retained by a company all the way through college, but that is another story. I am sure someone who wanted to be a politician or lawyer would never have considered Brunel.
And here lies the total problem with this kind of survey – it becomes self-selective for the wrong reasons. Certain graduates are more likely to go to certain colleges because they have chosen to concentrate on certain careers. Kids from successful families tend to set their sights higher and have the financial backing to make it possible. Colleges knowing this will attempt to maximize their revenue by focusing on certain subjects and appeal to a certain demographic.
So, I would like to rename the Forbes top college list to the America’s college ego list. I wonder if anyone else shares my views on this?
– keeping you covered
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