I recently tweeted this question out to my followers:
And I’ve been asking this question a lot to friends and fellow parents.
Assuming the world goes back to normal, a college education is still highly valued, and you’re in your current financial situation, how much is it worth to you for your child to have Yale (or any other top-tier school) on their resume?
Do you believe that the Yale brand is valuable enough to bypass a full-ride scholarship to a very good but not elite state university?
The responses were certainly varied.
On one end of the spectrum, some people were completely against taking on debt.
On the other end, some believed that the Yale brand sets up the student for long-term success.
Another respondent considered the quality of the student body:
And one person took into account the many options available in addition to just doing four years at one institution.
Of course, the college selection process is very nuanced. There are many important factors to consider such as major, size of the student body, campus environment, and many others.
As Karen Rands replied above, you can always attend community college or a state university then transfer to a more prestigious school later.
There are certainly a lot of factors that aren’t accounted for in my question. But what I wanted to get feedback on was how much people valued the brand of a university.
What is a University’s Brand Worth?
To many, the name brand of a university is extremely important because it reflects the quality of education, the student’s intelligence, and their ability to learn and succeed.
On one hand, your child having Yale on their resume is a stamp of approval that reflects extremely positively on your child.
If a future hiring manager sees Yale on a resume, that candidate will always garner some consideration and likely will at least get a first interview. I don’t think that can be said for state schools ranked outside of the top 3 or 4.
On the other hand, $300,000 is a hefty price to pay for that stamp.
And if your child got accepted to Yale, it’s likely that they’re smart and will be successful no matter what college they attend.
Let’s take a look at some salary data from Payscale. Many of the Ivy League and other top-tier schools rank in the top 15 for early-career and mid-career salaries.
Many state schools that I’ve posed in the question, such as University of Florida, Wisconsin, and others in that range, rank in the 200s.
So it’s pretty clear that attending a top-tier school, generally, will increase your lifetime earnings by a significant amount.
I would choose Yale over a full-ride to a state school for my daughter, Maya.
I believe that the Yale brand carries so much weight and will open many doors for Maya. And the experience of being around thousands of smart, ambitious students and having this network for life will absolutely help my daughter succeed.
Yes, $300,000 is a hefty price tag. But I think it would be worth it.
For the Twitter respondents who chose Yale, I asked a follow-up question:
If Maya got a full-ride scholarship to Berkeley (historically ranked #1), I’d definitely choose that over Yale.
I’d likely also go with UCLA, Michigan, and UVA.
When we get to the 5th-ranked schools (typically UNC and one of my alma maters, Georgia Tech), I’m not so sure.
I’m not knocking on state schools at all. Heck, I attended one (albeit for grad school), and it was a great experience. Many undergraduate state schools are just as good as some of the country’s elite universities at a much more reasonable price. And many exceed elite universities in certain factors, such as quality of specific majors, diversity of the student body, access to better sports events, and many more.
I just believe that, all other things equal, graduating from an elite university brings many benefits that can open many doors and help one succeed in life.
And that’s worth a good deal of money to me.
The Importance of Brand, Generalized
More generalized, the question basically boils down to “How much does brand mean to you?”
The brands of the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the phone you use, and other products you own reflect you as a person. These brands provide signals about what you value and represent.
Personally, I am not all that concerned about the brands of my products. I just look for good products that work well and last.
I wear clothes that I bought off Amazon, drive a Subaru Forester, and use an Android phone (which I do think is better than an iPhone, but that’s a debate for another day).
But I do highly value education, especially if it helps my daughter succeed. Thus, brand in education is very important to me, and a brand like Yale is as good as you can get.
Not everyone agrees with me, and that’s perfectly fine. Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone values things differently.
There are so many factors that goes into selecting a college, and it doesn’t just come down to brand. But I wanted to gauge the value that others put on a university’s brand.
I’d love to hear your opinions on this. Click this link to share this article and include your choice in the tweet. Or comment below.
Thanks for reading!