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These elite and well endowed LACs deliver highly successful and motivated graduates.
When the articles say colleges are "worth every penny" are they referring only to families who have a spare ~$240k per kid sitting around that they can pay out-of-pocket or are they including the families who would have to borrow ~$100k or more per kid?
Some studies have tried to measure the financial returns from attending a more selective/prestigious college. Krueger and Dale for example found no significant earnings benefit. If I'm not mistaken, they did not even consider the initial net cost differences.
My issue with ROI is that finances are not the only valid way to gauge R but the only way they are ever measured.