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Archive for Tuesday, July 23, 2002

College credentials

July 23, 2002

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Where students go to college may not necessarily predict their eventual success.

We regularly hear claims about the superior merits and values of a "Harvard degree," a "Stanford diploma" or a graduation credential from some "prestigious" school. Yale, Princeton, Duke and other Ivy League-type universities are often mentioned when people talk about what kind of education propels a graduate further, faster and higher in life after college.

Increasingly, such speculation has questionable weight. Evidence is it has been overrated all the while.

"There are no studies  academic or anecdotal  that indicate a correlation between the ranking or prestige of an undergraduate college and success in later life, whether measured in financial, emotional or spiritual terms," writes Michael Hill of The Baltimore Sun. He spent considerable time researching the subject. Hill adds:

"In some ways, the focus on the few top schools seems a throwback to an earlier age when major institutions of the country were all on the East Coast and in the hands of a properly credentialed elite. That is certainly no longer the case. And yet every year tens of thousands of high school seniors clamor for the precious spaces in the schools deemed to be at the top of the heap."

Says Martha O'Connell, dean of admissions at Western Maryland College: "It's not unlike the way Americans approach anything; they clamor to go toward the brand names people recognize. It's not the most positive thing for higher education. Students are choosing schools that might not be the best fit for them so their parents can drop its name at a cocktail party. It's not the positive way to choose colleges."

It must be acknowledged, however, that some employers hire on the basis of the name of the degree-granting school rather than on the academic record of the applicant.

While the brand-name schools continue to get special attention from would-be enrollees, growing numbers of young people are doing more college shopping and finding out they can get marvelous educations through determination, dedication and application at less-hyped schools. Most educators see that as meritorious.

There are outstanding institutions such as Kansas and Kansas State universities that not only provide superior educational experiences but do it at lower prices, even though costs have risen. Despite those increases, our area schools still will be considered outstanding bargains that give serious students all they can handle.

How interesting that there are no definitive figures on how much attending a prestigious college affects a person's ultimate success. The high-profile schools like to perpetuate the notion that they turn out the most successful graduates, yet they lack sufficient comparative figures.

How the alumni accomplishment levels of Kansas and Kansas State stack up against those of the so-called elite schools is impossible to determine. Yet a study of what KU and Kansas State students have done after leaving the halls of ivy shows time and again that it is not where you are but who you are when it comes to getting a good education.

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