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Sunday, March 11, 2012

"The Prestige Chase Is Raising College Costs"

Slow day so far in terms of finding or thinking of things to post -- maybe this will spark some discussion:

... Because of the bitter competition for ... premium salaries, elite educational credentials are often a precondition for even landing a job interview. With so many applications for every vacancy, many consulting firms and investment banks, for example, now consider only candidates from a short list of top-ranked schools.
Degrees from those schools clearly open doors. For example, more than 40 percent of the 2007 graduating class at Princeton landed one of the most highly sought prizes: a position in the lucrative financial services industry.
Universities have responded vigorously to escalating student demands for elite degrees. Their main strategy has been to bid more aggressively for the most distinguished researchers, which explains not only the rapid salary growth for top faculty members in the last several decades, but also the fact that teaching loads at many elite schools have decreased...
Yet no matter how much universities might spend in pursuit of elite status, only 10 percent at any moment can end up in the top 10 percent. To be sure, the additional expense has not been pure waste. ... Researchers have responded as expected to these incentives. But the additional papers they’ve written have added little value. The economist Philip Cook and I found, for example, that in the first five years after publication, many fewer than half of all papers in the two most selective economics journals had ever been cited by other scholars.
Tying federal subsidies to tuition growth would dampen a university’s incentive to bid for prestige in much the same way that league-imposed salary penalties in professional sports help curb the bidding wars for superstars. But if the starting-salary gap keeps widening between the highest- and lowest-paid college graduates, this remedy’s effectiveness would be temporary at best.
We might consider taking more direct aim at the component of tuition inflation that is attributable to growing salary gaps. Raising taxes on top salaries would be a good idea for American society in general, and not just for higher education. It would not only shrink the effect of salary disparities, but would also generate some much-needed revenue.

If you were all powerful, what would you do to improve higher education?

    Posted by on Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 01:20 PM in Economics, Income Distribution, Universities | Permalink  Comments (55)


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