Good Luck!

The first one I saw was from Noah Smith, an excellent econ writer, and one of the two or three Bloomberg Opinion contributors whose articles I prefer reading to flying cross-country in a MAX 8. “This admissions bribery scandal will be good for America,” he wrote, “because it will decrease the prestige premium of the top colleges, who didn’t really deserve it anyway.”

The AP piped in with a story about USC’s ‘reputation [being] on the line’, and the New York Times joined the fray shortly thereafter. Two students at Stanford sued UCLA, USC, the University of San Diego, UT Austin, Wake Forest, USC, Georgetown and Stanford itself, claiming (among other things) that “since Stanford is linked to the scandal, their degrees may be tainted.” Even the ouroboros of social media ‘influencers’ prophesied its own demise through reputational impact of the admissions bribery scandal.

Alright. Let me get this straight. Y’all believe that some of the wealthiest, most famous people in America took immense personal risk, lied brazenly, and paid up to a half million dollars to secure admission to these top universities…and the theory you would like to promote is that this harms the Common Knowledge about their prestige and reputation?

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  1. I have the impression that you and Ben are suffering from confirmation bias when it comes to fitting events into your analysis of the zeitgeist. The most-read story on CNBC today was about Jamie Dimon’s critique of inequality in the U.S. economy. It quotes him as follows:

    “It’s not about a college degree,” said Dimon, who graduated from Tufts University and Harvard Business School. “Having gone I know just how worthless a college degree is sometimes.”

    Dimon called the education system “broken” and said his bank stopped giving philanthropic dollars to colleges years ago. Instead, the company is focusing on community colleges and training programs.

    Sounds like this Nudging Plutocrat didn’t get the memo about the Narrative of Elite Institutions, doesn’t it?

    Good luck, indeed.

  2. Avatar for robh robh says:

    As a passport stamped member of Team Elite, I offer two insights.

    1. I led analyst recruiting for a number of years for my I-banking department and subsequent investment management firm in the 90s. I restricted my on-campus recruiting visits to one “elite” east coast school. I didn’t do that because I believed that the top kids at that school were better than the top kids at any other school (elite or otherwise)— my employers were not prestigious enough to get the top kids anyway; I did it because I could spend a day and interview a dozen kids and find 9 of them capable and willing to do the job, as opposed to other schools where only one or two would fit the bill (and then would likely turn down my job offer anyway). It was a screening process to make me more efficient— but I was searching for competence over excellence.

    2. My son is a high school senior who just completed the college admission process and will be going to a top 30 university next year. What is most frustrating to students (and parents) about the process these days is the sheer randomness of it. A student can check all the standard boxes (board scores, grades, academic rigor, extracurriculars) but without a “hook” (athletic recruit, mega-donor, nationally ranked in something, 1st generation college), the odds of getting into a “most competitive” school is probably sub 20%. Logically then, to reduce variance, the student must apply to a lot more schools to be assured they get into at least one of them. That of course leads to all these schools getting even more applications and lowering the odds of acceptance further. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  3. If you have an ‘elite’ degree, you will feel, or will be made to feel, inadequate without an appropriate amount of ‘success’. Without an elite degree, you may feel, or may be made to feel inadequate despite an appropriate amount of success. Did we get the message? Good luck!

  4. Well now, what a surprise (NOT). Just released by the White House:
    “Unfortunately, many colleges and universities have been unable or unwilling to provide the necessary
    types of education in a cost-effective manner.”

    And the timing of this release in the wake of last week’s indictments is purely coincidental, right?

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