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Dale and Krueger just updated their famous 2002 paper and demonstrate that:

We find that the return to college selectivity is sizeable for both cohorts in regression models that control for variables commonly observed by researchers, such as student high school GPA and SAT scores.  However, when we adjust for unobserved student ability by controlling for the average SAT score of the colleges that students applied to, our estimates of the return to college selectivity fall substantially and are generally indistinguishable from zero.  There were notable exceptions for certain subgroups. For black and Hispanic students and for students who come from less-educated families (in terms of their parents’ education), the estimates of the return to college selectivity remain large, even in models that adjust for unobserved student characteristics.
In other words, instead of Amherst at $26,000 per year in 1992, I should have gone to St. Johns for free. I am almost sure that my money earnings would be considerably higher today had I not gone to Amherst, but that my overall well being would be considerably lower. I wonder if policy-makers want to pursue the implications of these findings to their logical conclusions?

One Response to “Does it Pay to Get the Lettered Wool Sweater?”

  1. My theory is that it does not matter where you go to college for the first four years, at least to the extent that Big Name schools such as the University of Michigan or Harvard do not deliver to the undergraduate a proportional value. You can do good learning or no learning wherever you are. I recommend small, liberal arts schools, generally, because the name of the professor in the schedule book is the name of the person who actually stands in front of the class. (At Eastern Michigan University, generally, the graduate students are not TAs: they do not teach. Professors teach. Founded as the Michigan Normal College to train teachers, the school motto is “Education first.” Now that the Athletic Director makes three times what a department head earns, the wags say “Education first… and ten.” )

    For graduate and post-graduate work, the differences are more important. To get into a good graduate school, you need to do well in the first four years, regardless of where that was. To define “good graduate school” for yourself, though, means knowing what you want to achieve in going. If you have a specific research agenda and know the mentors in the field, then that defines the best option for you.

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