Study: Ivy League Colleges Aren’t Worth It


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — High school students around the country may dream of getting into Ivy League universities like Princeton or Yale, but one new study claims the ivies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Contrary to what some might assume, students who attend an Ivy League institution do not earn a noticeably higher salary than students of comparable skills who were either rejected from an Ivy League school, or were accepted but ultimately chose not to go, according to a working study released last month from Princeton.

The study analyzes data beyond the schools that students ended up attending by incorporating additional factors like the SAT scores of the students and the full range of schools they chose to apply to. In this way, the researchers can better compare students of similar abilities and ambitions between schools, rather than just broadly comparing one school’s student population to another.

“Our results suggest that the typical student does not unambiguously benefit from attending the most selective college to which he or she was admitted. Rather, our results would suggest that students need to think carefully about the fit between their abilities and interests, the attributes of the school they attend, and their career aspirations,” the researchers note in the conclusion of the study.

While there proved to be a statistically insignificant difference in earnings between comparable students in Ivy League universities and other schools around the country, the researchers did find a strong correlation between a student’s SAT score and their earnings after college. According to the study, a college graduate’s salary will increase by an average of 6% for every 100 points more they score on their SAT compared to the rest of the student population.

These findings are based on surveys of thousands of students who graduated in 1975 and 1989 from more than two dozen schools, and build off the results of a previous study put forth by the same researchers back in 2002 that indicated Ivy League colleges may not lead to higher salaries after all.

Researchers did find a few exceptions to these findings, however. Minority students, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, and students from low income families did in fact benefit more later in life from attending an Ivy League university. The researchers speculate that this may simply be due to the networking opportunities provided through more selective schools that would otherwise be unavailable to these students.

For more help picking out the college that’s right for you, check out MainStreet’s roundup of 10 universities that are worth the cost of tuition.

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