"The problem with America’s semi-rich" -- sound familiar around these forums?

Not everyone. We were full pay and never complained about it. I am grateful that because of our circumstances (a combination of hard work, good luck and privilege) we were able to do that.


Based on the forums on CC there are representatives from the whole income distribution obsessing over these things.

Just watched the documentary on Netflix on the Varsity Blues scandal. It was quite interesting to see people that were in good position to pass on substantial wealth and financial security to their kids not only obsess but engage in criminal behaviors over the prestige of the college their kids were going to attend. I think the idea that economists base a lot of their theories on, i.e. that of the rational actor, becomes questionable at best when examining the college preferences of many Americans.


Better or worse. This happens in other countries as well

Not so for Rutgers.

What isn’t so for Rutgers?

It is in the B1G. The B1G shares TV revenue with the athletic department. The athletic department has it’s own budget and isn’t part of the general university budget. If a football or tennis scholarship isn’t used, it doesn’t become a chemistry scholarship.

Some of the big schools are very generous in sharing the money with the academic programs, but that’s after they pay the head football coach and for the new scoreboard.

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Also, universities in general have benefactors, and in the case of Northwestern, a benefactor will be helping build a new football stadium. So, athletic departments do have other sources of income.

My spouse was in private education, and when he started 25 years ago, there was literally no IT department. Now a bunch of people work there. No human resources. Now there are 2 in that office. The Communications Department has exploded – when he started they basically put out the alumni magazine. Now they manage a number of social media pages, have photographers to create content, videographers, etc. Like many institutions they acquired a farm for local, organic, food, and where some kids work… Thats another group of people that weren’t around 20 years ago. On the other hand, the print shop has closed.

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And my good friend @Publisher wonders where us LAC fans come by our defensiveness. :slight_smile: W/o going off the rails in this thread, let’s clarify a few things. First, people prefer the more selective LACs for the same reasons they prefer Michigan to Iowa State, and Princeton to Western Oregon University. Also, less selective LACs are still getting lots of applications (in my neck, Puget Sound, Willamette, etc.) and they are placing kids just fine in all kinds of industries. Do remember, too, that plenty of kids at big schools with lots of career-oriented majors major in Poetry and plenty of LAC major in math, physics, economics and other areas that get them jobs. There are kids graduating (in non-accounting tracks at least) from very good business schools (e.g., Foster) selling real estate or doing “account rep” (sales) jobs at Amazon.

Back to the OP - count me in the “grain of salt” camp on the opinion of someone from the tippy top % about the next layer down. Your views cannot help but be affected when you don’t have to worry about money. Period. He may be right, but I’d rather hear it from someone else who is more familiar with my general world view when deciding whether to internalize it.

As to my motivations as a member of the class about which he writes? All of it, and I tend to be skeptical of those who try and be more altruistic about their own motives. I will likely leave my children some $$, but I still worry about their security after I’m gone. Of course I want them to be happy and thrive. But I also want them to be financially secure. I have one with a chronic illness and I know I will die worrying about how she will get on. I want them all to feel proud of themselves, which includes (why the heck not?) being proud where they went to school, which is a reflection on their efforts. So yeah, I wear the hats of where my kids attend/attended. I’m not trying to rub it in anyone’s face; I’m just proud of what they’ve accomplished. And, yes, I think it reflects on us to an extent as parents, so there’s a little shine in there for me too. Not ashamed to admit it.

So put me down for all of it: increased odds of achieving financial security, prestige, contacts, flexibility in the future, a high quality education (for its own sake), the adventure and recognition of going off to attend a well known college, all of it. I don’t know why anyone would have any trouble admitting to those motivations. Who really dislikes or is truly indifferent to these things? Literally nobody I know. Mind you, we all have other interests and passions. But I’d be lying if I just laid out some uber utilitarian line of crap as my motivation for seeing to it that my kids did what they did.

Agree with @my3girls entirely on the notion that at some point (2008 sounds about right) the pendulum swung hard toward the pragmatic in education. We have a couple down the street from us who illustrate the divide perfectly: H is a Boeing engineer and W is a stay-at-home. W’s dad was a college math professor, H’s parents were not college educated. H describes college as an activity for career preparation; W describes it as an activity for learning to be a life-long learner. What can you do? There are plenty of both.


However, the general trend at colleges in general is that liberal arts (including math and science) are more popular at more selective colleges, while more overtly pre-professional majors (such as business) are more popular at less selective colleges (engineering majors are the main exceptions when they are offered, being more popular at more selective colleges except perhaps some of the most selective colleges). This tendency may limit the appeal of LACs at the lower selectivity / prestige levels.

We can take this up elsewhere b4 we get smacked for going off the trail here, but I suppose it might vary depending on what you mean by “more” and “less” selective. Those are pretty broad categories. At UW, my home state flagship, (52% admission rate), the college of arts & sciences is by far the largest college at the university, and it oversees the most popular major: biology. I don’t have to tell you that UW has many wonderful and tippy tippy top pre-professional options, including world-class Comp. Sci. and Bio-tech.

But I’m sure the reason you offer here is one of the many reasons that might drive a given applicant in the lower-tier to focus on larger schools than a LAC. Others likely include not being informed about what LACs actually offer (we see it here) and cost (lower-tier LACs are still private and most can’t cover 100% COA). In my world, a kid from, say, Puget Sound with an economics or biology degree is going to have no problem finding a job, and might probably find it easier than a kid with a Occupational Health degree from Eastern Washington University. But, Puget Sound can cover about 80% of COA for its most desirable applicants. When you don’t have the money, 20% of a large number is just as impossible as 100% of a large number. Again, other reasons.

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From College Scorecard, the median pay levels after graduation:

College Major Degree Pay
UPS Biology Bachelor’s $28,598
EWU Biology Bachelor’s $31,133
UPS Economics Bachelor’s $41,565
EWU Economics Bachelor’s $32,569
UPS Occupational Therapy Master’s $64,493
EWU Occupational Therapy Master’s $66,355

OT (which both UPS and EWU offer) is not really comparable to the other majors, since it now has to be a master’s degree program (possible example of credential creep, since bachelor’s degree programs in OT were possible perhaps a decade ago). Also, biology bachelor’s degree job markets are not all that good from any college.

It is not all that obvious that, from a perspective of post-graduation jobs, the college (between UPS and EWU) matters as much as the major.

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Major matters for most students financially. The exceptions are some students at a few of the most elites schools. Yes, every business needs some generalists, and a few very well-paid generalists. It’s also true that a few businesses (such as investment banking) have a large number of very well-paid positions, but collectively, their numbers are still tiny, relative to the pool of available generalists. Because there’re so few (relatively speaking, of course) well-paid generalist positions, top students in those few elite privates tend to get a big portion of those positions, leaving relatively few for the rest.


Exactly. And I’d like to point out that these “some students” are almost uniformly wealthy – if you’re poor or middle-class at a tippy-top, major is still of utmost importance.


I’d agree with @bloomington019 and say it’s the well connected rather than the top students that get well paid generalist positions. The top continue in academia for x poorly paid years, contributing to the depression of their starting salaries.

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By “top students”, I meant the “top” students among the generalists. Students who choose careers in academia tend to be specialists, and almost certainly with advanced degrees in their fields. Having connections always helps but isn’t sufficient for most of those very well-paid positions, IMO.


So I’m losing the point I thought we were discussing, which was “Lower-tier LACs may be less preferable to [lower-tier? you weren’t clear about the comparator] non-LACs because career-oriented degrees.” I suspect that may be a reason in some circumstances, but I think other factors are as or more applicable, particularly cost.

I’m saying LACs and non-LACs graduate a plethora of arts & sciences majors. I don’t think it’s obvious that one cohort does any better in the job market than the other. I’m also saying these lower-tier LACs are placing their students in careers and that many kids with vocational/job degrees from the comparator school are not really working in industry because of those degrees. I’m not seeing where you are disputing those claims. If you are, let me know.

I’ll also add that many schools which self-identify as LACs have programs that are pre-professional or career directed (as your list above demonstrates). As an another example, Puget Sound offers physical therapy and business programs, the latter of which includes the accounting track which is a very employable area of study. Willamette, George Fox, Whitworth, Pacific Lutheran, Lewis & Clark and others offer business management and other pre-professional degrees of varying stripes. So there’s that.

This is very accurate.


Your specific example of UPS biology and economics graduates doing better than EWU OT graduates does not appear to be true from College Scorecard data.

You might want to re-read what you just quoted me saying again. I didn’t say what you said I said. Beyond the misstatement of “doing better”, it’s not obvious to me that pay data for a particular type of masters degree relative to pay data for two specific types of bachelors degrees gives us great insight into job placement in general, which is what I actually said (“finding a job”). For all we know, there may be many more econ and bio grads finding work (albeit at lower median pay according to scorecard) in more varied fields than OT masters grads. For a real example, you tend to find a lot of kids with bio degrees in various bio-tech and healthcare startups. Those kids often have other options, but choose the startups (often at lower salary) for other reasons.

We’re now pretty far afield from where we started, which was:

Again, to consider: (1) people like highly selective because they like highly selective everything; (2) many, many lower- to mid-tier LACs offer pre-professional jobby majors; (3) many families don’t really understand LACs; and (4) lower-tier LACs can’t cover cost for many, many students.

You brought up UPS biology versus EWU OT.

In any case, low pay levels for biology graduates generally suggest a not very favorable job market for them – if it were easy to get a job, wouldn’t employers have to pay more?

Your speculation and assertion without evidence regarding the ease of biology graduates finding jobs is not all that believable. Also, many of the startups hiring biology researchers are looking for PhD, not bachelor’s, graduates.

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