Yesterday, I read an article in the NY Times that seeks to weigh the cost v. returns of going to an elite college. One passage spoke very true to me.
[the authors of this study] concluded that 'job satisfaction decreases slightly as college selectivity moves up.' One hypothesis... was that the expectations of elite college graduates — especially when it came to earnings — might have been higher, and thus more subject to disappointment, than the expectations of those who graduated from less competitive colleges.
And that's not even considering the elite college graduates who can't get jobs at all. Like the starry-eyed young people with degrees in one of the less-than-practical areas - Literature, Philosophy, Classics - who then decide (for whatever reason) not to pursue a Ph.D. in their esoteric majors. Yours truly is in that category. I wrote a self-parodying sonnet about my plight. I do stuff like that.
Having attained an Ivy League degree,
And forty-thousand dollars deep in debt,
My mind, a ship, hence tossed by stormy sea,
Aggrieved and anxious, since no job I get.
This wound doth smart my heart; it’s so dismaying
To move back home. What now to do? I’m clueless.
My dad, heart filled with ruth, refrains from saying
“I told you English Lit degrees were useless.”
But while my interests grew, my funds depleted,
A house, stability, far out of reach,
There’re those who tell me: “don’t feel so defeated,
You’re fed by loving parents; life’s a peach.
And though your future’s hazy, in a fog,
You get to whine about it on your blog.”
That article, by the way, fails to give any concrete answer to the question it raises and kind of cops out with "it depends."
The author does suggest, that for those students whose aim in postsecondary education is not so much self-exploration but practical skills acquisition, a large state university may suffice or even be ideal.
Conversely, then, is an elite university pedigree (particularly) better for those in the liberal arts? I guess it makes sense that when you're searching for jobs in academia, the name of your academy of origin is worth a lot more than it already might be.