Do Ivy League Schools Matter Anymore?


Do Ivy League schools matter anymore? 

Do they? Really? Can a degree from an Ivy League institution guarantee you that job, or that group membership, or that higher salary you want?

In our post-recession world where secondary students, post-secondary students, parents, and hopeful graduate students try to assess how they can set themselves up to best achieve their goals, this is a very relevant question.

The prestige associated with Ivy League schools helps these institutions to continue attracting the best candidates each year. Though these institutions have been great schools for centuries and are undeniably important hubs of knowledge, the prestige associated with them has created a self-fulfilling prophecy that gives these schools an upper hand in recruiting new students.

But can this prestige get you a job? George Bradt, a Harvard graduate who is a consultant in Connecticut,  believes that having that Ivy League stamp of approval has “always been that little edge … Say you have two candidates for a position, and it's really close. One guy is from Harvard, and the other is from Podunk University. The Harvard guy is going to get the nod."

An article from the Atlantic from earlier this month displays a chart with unemployment rates of college grads compared to students with some college experience, with no college experience, and high school dropouts. It shows that college grads have lower unemployment rates; however this could be a result of racial disparities, the rising cost of college discouraging lower income students from applying, and a host of other issues not discussed, but I digress.

Often, parents who want their children to gain admission to these respected institutions, and pay for additional services that they hope will give their children advantages in the application process. A working paper out of Princeton encourages students and parents to consider how their college placement choice fits into the student’s career goals to ensure that they are paying for the education rather than for the school’s name. To further discount the correlation that a college degree results in a higher likelihood of employment, the Princeton paper finds that SAT scores serve as better predictors than college choice — at least for an individual’s future income.

Employers these days could not care less if potential employees went to one of the Ivy Leagues. Employers are more concerned with the amount of experience being brought to their organization. In a time when efficiency trumps prestige, employers will prefer having a state university graduate with years of relevant experience instead of an Ivy League graduate with none.

Ivy Leagues matter, at least to some extent. However the lasting impact of their prestige seems to be diminishing. The generation after us will have different perceptions of what going to an Ivy League institution means, but can this trend reverse itself? I think so and I think that it will — eventually.