The Cost of Higher Education: Is an Ivy League School Worth the Expense?

Are you planning for college and worried about paying for tuition? If so, you’re not alone. Cost and quality of education are the primary concerns of students and parents alike when it comes time to start thinking about college. It’s no secret that the cost of higher education is on the rise. While some still hold to the tradition that prestigious private institutions are worth the investment, a growing number of students are passing up the Ivy Leagues in favor of public colleges and universities.

One such student, Joe Gholson, chose Southeast Missouri State University despite offers from such prestigious institutions as West Point Military Academy and Tulane University. Gholson believes that Southeast has as much to offer academically as any private institution. “They use the same textbooks at Ivy League schools as they do at Southeast,” he said. Gholson also stated that he feels more at home here than at other institutions, and that this contributes to his academic success. “The best predictor of success is a comfortable environment because every student has the opportunity to get as much out of textbooks and lectures at Southeast as they do anywhere.”

The choice to attend a less costly public university is often the result of sound investment decisions. Students and parents have begun to discover that the price tag doesn’t always represent the quality of a higher education institution. A report published by CollegeBoard, a nationally recognized college search organization, indicates that universities such as Southeast cost an average of 50 percent less than private institutions. This doesn’t mean that you only get half the education, however.

Chris Robertson, a Southeast alumnus, can attest to the benefits of his decision to attend a public university. “I was able to have close interactions with faculty whom I found to be accessible, engaging and friendly,” Robertson said, “much more so than I would have found at a private undergraduate institution.” He also commented on the quality of his education, stating “I feel that I was well prepared for graduate study. I received a quality education without incurring any debt.” Robertson went on to study at Washington University, where he received a Ph.D. in philosophy. He is currently studying law at Harvard.

No matter which private institution you choose, there is usually a similar state institution nearby. In the long run, it’s best to choose an institution that has a quality program in your area of interest. More often than not, you’ll find that public and private universities are equally well-accredited!

When comparing the prices of public and private institutions, consider exactly what you are paying for. The difference in what you pay for education is directly proportional to the institution’s source of funding. Private institutions receive the bulk of their funding from tuition and fees paid by the students. Although private universities do receive funding from private benefactors, you are essentially footing the bill for all of their expenses. Public institutions, on the other hand, receive funding from state and federal sources, in addition to private donations. What this boils down to is the fact that public universities are putting your tax dollars to work, and you can take advantage of it!

Here’s something else for you to consider.  An Ivy League education doesn’t necessarily make you more desirable to employers, nor does it entitle you to a better job.

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the difference between getting your dream job and settling for something less isn’t a function of where you attended college.  The key to success is having a well-rounded education with real-world experience. Your personality, knowledge, skills and experience are much more valuable to your future employer than the name of your alma mater.

Independent studies conducted by government and private organizations have all come to the same result. The U.S. Department of Education, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and Princeton economist Alan Kreuger agree that average yearly earnings of graduates from public and private institutions working in similar fields have been roughly equal for over a decade. This trend doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. As a matter of fact, the number of corporate executives who graduated from public universities has been steadily increasing for the last 25 years.

So here’s the bottom line

It's better to make a sound investment in a quality education than to incur a mountain of debt for the sake of studying at an Ivy League institution.