That’s one of the better lines from an article in today’s NYT about choosing the right college. In an era in which everyone is talking about the higher ed bubble, and in which we’re seeing a fair amount of buyer’s remorse (especially from folks who take identity studies curricula — folks, if a medievalist thinks your area of study is a useless glass bead game, take the hint.), students are going to have to become smarter shoppers.
So what sort of advice are we getting from the Times? Well, it isn’t too bad:
“I don’t think overextending a family’s finances to get a brand-name college in any way serves a child’s needs,” said Mark Sklarow, executive director of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, an organization whose members help American families select a university based on cost, among other criteria. “Choosing a college that’s a little less well known — a regional leader versus a national one — seems to be a smart financial decision. The student is more likely to be successful, and he’s more likely to be offered aid.”
This also ties in to an idea my father drilled into me a long time ago. He said I could get a good — even a great — education anywhere, but I had to want it. The name of the institution might have some snob value, but what mattered was the effort I put into my education, and within certain limits, that probably meant I should go with what I thought was most affordable. What this meant in practice was exactly what Sklarow discusses — although I was accepted and offered significant financial aid packages at several top-10 universities, I wound up at a lesser-known school that paid the whole freight, a college that reminds me of Mondoville in many ways. In some ways, my hand was forced — my family didn’t have the money to foot the bills (I got $25 a month in my Freshman year, which wasn’t much even in 1983.), but as long as there was a library and people who knew things I didn’t, I could learn.
And for those of us on the supply side of higher education, what can we learn from this? Our students and their families are becoming smarter shoppers. We might want to make sure that what we’re selling is worth paying for.
H/T: Critical Mass