Are the Ivies Worth It?

The Washington Post Magazine has an article questioning the value of an Ivy League education. I have a significant amount of experience with the Ivy League. I am an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania. I did my postdoctoral research for Harvard, although since we were collaborating with Cornell I actually was located in there, so I have experience with three of the eight Ivies.

I think that that perception that the Ivies were a guaranteed ticket to success grew at the same time that the Ivies were losing their dominance. In my field of physics when I look at faculty members who are 10 to 20 years older than me, I see almost exclusively graduates of the Ivies, MIT, Caltech, and Chicago, but when I look at the people who got faculty jobs around the same time as me as the universities represented are much more diverse with all major research universities represented including the large state schools. This seems to be consistent with the article's reporting on CEOs.

A study by the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania (an Ivy) found that in 1980, 14 percent of top executives at Fortune 100 companies received their undergraduate degrees from an Ivy League school. That figure was down to 10 percent by 2001. At the same time, the percentage of executives with undergraduate degrees from public colleges and universities climbed from 32 percent in 1980 to 48 percent in 2001.

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