As parents, many of us invest a lot of time and money helping our children identify and get into the right college. A new article by Time Magazine says it really doesn’t matter where your child goes to college:
This month, high school seniors across America are receiving college decision letters of acceptance and rejection. Many of these students, and their parents, will think that where they go to college will significantly affect their employment future.
They think wrong. Today, whether you go to college retains some importance in your employment options. But where you go to college is of almost no importance. Whether your degree, for example, is from UCLA or from less prestigious Sonoma State matters far less than your academic performance and the skills you can show employers.
Research on the impact of college selection has focused on comparing the earnings of graduates of different colleges. In 1999, economists Alan Krueger and Stacy Berg Dale published a widely-read study that compared the earnings of graduates of elite colleges with those of “moderately selective” schools. The latter group was composed of persons who had been admitted to an elite college but chose to attend another school.
The economists found that the earnings of the two groups 20 years after graduation differed little or not at all. In a larger follow up study released in 2011 and covering 19,000 college graduates, the economists reached a similar conclusion: Whether you went to University of Penn or Penn State, Williams College or Miami University of Ohio, job outcomes were unaffected in terms of earnings.
Earnings are only a part of the employment picture. Other measures, like job satisfaction or social value, are more difficult to quantify. In a thoughtful 2004 essay, the writer Gregg Easterbrook interviewed college officials throughout the country to assess these impacts. His conclusion: on a range of measures of job satisfaction, attendance at an elite college had little impact.
Forty years ago, elite colleges offered a demonstrably higher level of education. Today, as many as 200 colleges across the U.S. offer a similar level of education and have excellent faculty and facilities.
I also say: If you have the good fortune to choose among colleges, it is worth taking the process seriously. Obtain as much information as possible to evaluate the location, size, and educational specialties of every school. But remember: the particular college degree will be of little consequence, especially after you’ve been in the labor force for more than a few years.”
What’s most important is what you will do, at college and in life, to keep improving your skills, to develop your character, to remain persistent. You’ll also need some mazel. That’s Yiddish for luck.