Monday, November 29, 2010

Colleges and Status-Seeking

Various quotes from DIY U, emphasis added:
The nation's top colleges seem to assent to the signaling hypothesis when they agree to rate themselves by how selective they are - that is, how many people they reject, the SAT scores of entering students, and so on. That's like Weight Watchers advertising that they only take skinny people. If elite schools really subscribed to the value-added, human-capital theory, wouldn't they instead advertise how good they are at improving the very low SAT scores of entering students? Wouldn't they say, "We can take absolutely anyone and use our proven teaching methods to turn them into Swarthmore or Pomona material?" 
College is nothing more than an elaborate and expensive mechanism for employers to identify the people who were smarter and harder workers and had all the social advantages in the first place, and those people then get the higher-paying jobs.

If we want a majority of the population to be able to take advantage of the benefits of post-secondary education and training, we need to get better at recognizing the value of education that's not socially exclusive.
"In the end, there is only one status ladder in higher education," Carey says. "Everyone wants to be Harvard." If they were brands, a big chunk of the best-known American colleges would be more like a Four Seasons or a Starbucks than a McDonald's or a Wal-Mart. They try to compete on exclusivity and the quality of the experience, not on price. Affordability can actually hurt colleges.
If College A increases tuition, thus spending more on each student, making it harder for poor students to attend and turning more students away, they look more elite and desirable. If College B figures out a way to do more with less and cuts tuition, allowing them to offer slots to more applicants, they lower spending per student and become less selective.


Blogging will be light for the next few months. There will still be a post every Monday but they're more likely to be pointers to or quotes from things I've found elsewhere, as opposed to extensive written posts.

1 comment:

  1. People often confuse "education" and "credentials". Eduction is virtually free when you think about it. Higher education is only necessary if you seek credentials; it says absolutely nothing about your intelligence or education.

    Unfortunately, credentials (if they are to signal anything) must, by definition, be socially exclusive. Harvard has simply built a high-end brand in the higher education market. Value is created by scarcity. If everyone was "smart" enough or could afford to go to Harvard it wouldn't mean anything from a signaling vantage point.