A Tale of Two Kinds of Colleges

If you happen to read an article or watch a news segment in which it’s stated that college enrollment is down, you might think you’re living in an alternative universe. After all, headline after headline touts the record applications and all-time low admission rates at the likes of Harvard and Yale, MIT, Brown, Duke, and so many other elite institutions. But, oh loyal readers of our college admissions blog, you are indeed living in an alternative universe. You see, there are over 900 universities in America. And at the vast majority of these schools, they’re struggling to fill seats in an economy with ample job openings. Yet if you’re reading this blog, you likely hope your children will earn admission not to one of the 900 universities in America but to one of the 50 or so highly selective universities. You know. The Ivy League schools. And Stanford, UChicago, Duke, MIT, Caltech, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Wash U, and their peers. So, in many ways, it’s a tale of two different kinds of colleges.

Ivy Coach was featured today on NewsNation discussing college enrollment.

In a live segment for NewsNation on college enrollment numbers, Ivy Coach’s Brian Taylor elaborates on this tale of two colleges. To make his point, Brian quotes Conan O’Brien. That’s right. Conan. As Brian says, “Apologies to the University of Phoenix but is a degree from the University of Phoenix really worth the paper it’s written on? Some years ago, Conan O’Brien gave a speech at Dartmouth in which he said, ‘Today you’ve achieved something special, something only 92% of Americans your age will ever know: a college diploma. That’s right, with your college diploma, you now have a crushing advantage over 8% of the workforce.'” And even though Conan said this in jest, there’s some truth to what Conan says. The fact is, despite the best intentions of college administrators and our federal and state governments to increase access and affordability, a college education at most of the 900 schools across America is still a luxury good. And in a downturn, a luxury good is the first thing to go.”

He goes on, “But, the difference is, of the 900 universities, there are about 50 highly selective universities. Paul was standing at New York University. That’s a highly selective school. You also featured the University of Southern California. Enrollment is not down at these schools. Far from it. Applications are surging at these schools. They surged last year and they surged even more this year. So it’s a misnomer, I would say, to say that enrollment is down. Enrollment is down at most schools but among the highly selective schools, the schools that are not luxury goods, enrollment is not down and interest has never been greater. In many ways, it’s a tale of two colleges.”

In short, in our opinion, a degree from the University of Phoenix, which we call a luxury good, isn’t going to make a difference on the job market — not in the slightest. So why pay so much for an education from such a school? Why put yourself or your family in tremendous debt for years to come? Yet attending one of the 50 or so highly selective universities in America — now that will make a difference. These schools, some of which even predate the founding of our nation, are not luxury goods. They’re tickets to the American Dream. So that kind of education is not something that can go in an economic downturn like we’re currently experiencing — even a downturn in which there’s not a job shortage. That kind of education is not a luxury good. It’s a stepping stone to success.


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