Why an Ivy League tuition may not be worth it

in Opinion by
Ivy league schools have existed for nearly seventy years and are often at the top of high-achieving students’ lists of dream schools. They come with the promises of quality education and widespread connections at the cost of steep tuition. (Photo/Kenneth C. Zirkel)

With my first step on campus, the race began. Ivy league schools shone bright with pride and everyone had their eyes on that prize. After all, how could I possibly go from an Ivy-league high school to anything less?

I realize that I’m blessed to go to such a school that’s able to flaunt their “Top 5 in the Nation Model UN team” and “50-some National Merit Semi-Finalists,” on their 72-inch flat screen televisions in the pristine cafeteria. Nonetheless, I wonder whether or not achieving this level of success and adding it to my college application will take me “somewhere prestigious” or if that “somewhere” even matters to my overall life.

Entering my junior year of high school, that thought bears even more weight when I swig another 20 milligrams of caffeine into my system at 11 p.m. to continue studying – so allow me to explore it. 

In terms of financial payoff, let’s first consider debt. U.S. News reports that “the average cost of tuition and fees to attend a ranked public college in-state [at $10,423] is about 74% less than the average sticker price at a private college [at $39,723].” Along with the recent unveiling of the Student Loan Forgiveness program last month, public student loan debt of up to $20,000 can be canceled depending on your household income. Given that increased student debt has a negative relationship with life satisfaction and chances of home ownership, I’d say the less-selective colleges are winning so far. 

However, highly selective schools can have positive effects on future earnings, depending on who you are. In a 2020 study determining the economic impact of certain colleges, no significant relationship was found between college selectivity and earnings for men, however, “attending a school with a 100-point higher average SAT score increases women’s … earnings by 14 percent.” 

Lower-income students also experience a similar return on investment. In a 2017 study at Harvard University, lower-income students at highly selective schools were found to have “enormous” mobility prospects after graduation and that intergenerational mobility gaps could decrease by over 25% by providing “need-affirmative preferences” like legacy or athletics. Thus, those already wealthy students do not see a significant jump in economic mobility after attending an “elite” university because they already achieved it. Whether this point goes to the highly- versus less-selective is debatable.

At the end of the day, brand name hysteria culture will still exist at school, but there’s a reason that hype exists in the first place – selective schools are selective because they have rare educational opportunities. Nonetheless, students should take this information and apply it to themselves on an individual level. Realize that if you’re attending American Heritage, there’s a good chance you already have that economic advantage, quality education and connections with “the best of the best” and whether or not you go to a top ranked university won’t change that.

Now a current junior, this is Lauren’s first year writing for the Patriot Post, and she couldn’t be more excited to get started. She enjoys anything and everything science related, playing Papa’s Sushiria, and critiquing movies like it’s her job. She can’t wait to stretch out her horizons and try new forms of writing!