Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm not in thrall to the so-called 'elite' colleges but Washington Post columnist Jay Matthews uses logical fallacies in arguing that they're over-rated.

Yes, there are a lot of successful people who graduated from schools that don't make the A-list (and as he points out, there are some successful people who didn't finish college at all).

But in any analysis, there are going to be outliers. There will be people who don't go to college who do well, there will be those who go to a highly regarded school and bomb out in life, in the same way that there will be some number of kids who grow up in lousy conditions who go on to be successful and there will some number of kids from privilege who end up failures.

A better analysis would be to look at how the 'typical ' student at a top rated school does compared to similar students at other colleges. Put another way, does the average graduate from, say, Yale, do better in life (however that is measured) than the average graduate from a lesser-regarded school?

We know that the average high school graduate does better than the typical high school drop out and that the typical college graduate does better than someone with just a high school education. So it's not illogical to think that the most graduates from top-rated schools will do better than most of the people who graduate from lesser-ranked schools.