Where Did You Get In?

While many high school students have known for months where they’re going to college, soon everyone’s going to find out.

So then they can spend huge amounts of money to go to college. How much good has all this college-going done for the country? Well, it’s debatable.

It’s spring, the time of year when colleges mail out final admissions decisions.

So congratulations, or something. But is it worth it? Well maybe not, writes William Cohan in the New York Times:

Generally speaking, in order to pay just Harvard’s tuition, someone would have to earn more than $100,000 in annual pre-tax compensation. Then there are all the other family expenses — among them, gasoline, the mortgage, food and medical expenses. Multiply all that by four, and then by other children, and very quickly the numbers get astronomical.

Which leads to a fundamental question: Despite the obvious appeal of being in such an intellectually rich environment and the chance to learn for learning’s sake, is the much-sought-after four-year education at the nation’s elite colleges and universities even worth it anymore?

And Harvard is the extreme example. Most private colleges are almost as expensive, though not quite as well known.

But then, attendance at certain schools (including Harvard) is virtually necessary to secure a good job in certain professions, like the law, investment banking, or consulting.

But what have these fancy schools given American lately? The record’s not so great. As Cohan writes:

Could it be possible that higher education these days is not only a poor investment but also is leading to major fissures in the social compact between those who run Wall Street and the rest of us? During the 46 years between 1930 and 1976 only two men ran Goldman Sachs: Sidney Weinberg and Gus Levy. Many people look back fondly on their stewardship of the firm as a time when the private Goldman did first-class business in a first-class way, and became one of the most feared, mysterious and admired companies in the world.

Levy spent a single semester at Tulane. Weinberg dropped out in middle school.

Today the Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs is Lloyd Blankfein. Blankfein earned a B.A and the law degree from Harvard. How has Harvard improved Goldman Sachs?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer