The Value of a Harvard Education

The author of this New York Times editorial is making fun of Harvard dynasties and the increasingly tiny chance anyone has of getting in, but it got me thinking about something else.  The editorial is a mock acceptance/rejection letter for kids from Harvard families who couldn’t make the GPA cut.  The letter states that although the kids won’t get a Harvard education,  they will be allowed to live on campus for four years and get Harvard “diploma-like” documents at the end.

If the diplomas were real, I would have been very tempted by this deal when I was applying for colleges eight (!) years ago.  Maybe a Harvard education is better than, say, the education I received at Carleton College, but I bet the difference is marginal.  The bulk of the difference reflected in price and selection stems more from the prestige one gets from the Harvard name, and the boost having gone to Harvard will give one in future endeavors.  Both of these factors are on offer in the Times proposed program.

To put it another way, the marginal benefit one gets from a Harvard education as opposed to another school’s education is worth maybe $1000 a year.  The benefit one gets from collectively recalling your Boston years with your law firm colleagues at a SoHo loft party?  Priceless.


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