Ivy League has been in the news recently since New York student Kwasi Enin of Long Island, New York, was recently accepted at all eight Ivy schools, a very impressive feat that anyone should be proud of. Getting into an elite school is no easy task, with most of these elite schools having acceptance rates in the low single digits, Harvard’s 2012 acceptance rate being just 5.9 percent. But, is an elite education all that it is cracked up to be? Some say not so much. There are several factors that make elite schools seem less enticing than perhaps other schools.
William Deresiewicz. an Ivy-educated author and literary critic and former Yale professor published an essay in 2008 on the disadvantages of attending an elite school, claiming that elite schools coddle their students and do not allow them to think freely or learn to communicate well with a variety of social groups. His new book on the topic called Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life” to be released later this year continues his discussion on these and similar topics related to the downside of an elite education.
Believe it or not, Ivy schools are not immune to grade inflation, the process of awarding increasingly higher grades for work that in the past would have received much lower marks. While grade inflation is a problem across high schools and colleges nationwide, at Ivy schools, where students are already used to receiving high grades, the problem is endemic. A 2013 article in The Boston Globe reported that the average grade awarded grade at Harvard College was an A, which some say “cheapens” the education that students receive at this institution and tends to reinforce the already over-entitled minds of the Millennial Generation who often expect high grades for minimal effort or poor-quality work. While Princeton in 2004 set limits to how many As its departments could award (no more than 35%), this caused the president of the university to worry as to whether students would be able to get into graduate schools upon leaving the undergraduate program. Grade inflation is partially caused by the so-called “corporatization” of the university, where students are now seen more as customers rather than learners.
Further, there is the stress factor. The suicide of a University of Pennsylvania student earlier this year prompted the Ivy League school to rethink the way it responds to student stress. The teenagers allegedly committed suicide over the grades they were receiving and workload, grades, and the pressure to perform.
While a college education is now seen basically as a means to getting a job rather than becoming educated in its own right, there is also the question as to if Ivy League graduates fare better on the job market than state school students. A 2010 report by The Wall Street Journal indicates that companies increasingly favor state school students over elite-educated students because they tend to have more practical skills, that they are “well-rounded academically,” and that they seem to do better in corporate culture. A website called “The Ivy Lie” has been set up to tell the personal stories of unemployed Ivy League alumni who have not been able to find jobs after leaving their alma maters.
Undoubtedly, elite schools employ some of the best and brightest professors whom students lucky enough to be accepted to these schools have the luxury of learning from. But with today’s plethora of online learning, including distance education courses from places like Harvard and MIT that anyone can take, often for free, or the numerous YouTube lectures available from Princeton and Yale, are Ivy League schools worth getting in?
By Amber Workman