October 3, 2010

Any changes in college prestige?

The prestige of colleges is a topic of broad interest, but it doesn't seem like it has been studied objectively very much. In particular, the list of prestigious colleges in 2010 seems quite similar to that of 1975. Moreover, being a prestigious college like Harvard in 2010 seems like even a bigger deal than being Harvard in 1975. This suggests that the people running colleges have largely not messed up. 

But, they mostly all do roughly what their peers do -- for example, admissions policy generally consists of special advantages for blacks and (to a lesser extent Hispanics), legacies, and athletes, with some discrimination against Asians. It's hard to tell if this is a wise policy, though, since it's a consensus policy. For example, the Ivies, plus MIT and some other northeastern colleges used to get together in a conference room each year to fix prices for individual students that more than one colleges wanted to admit: the Ivy Overlap Group.

So, I'm looking for outliers. For example, Caltech doesn't have legacy admissions and doesn't seem to care much about affirmative action. Reed, which aims at the intellectually serious hippie niche, doesn't do affirmative action. It doesn't strike me that either one has gotten much of a boost in prestige over the last 35 years from its independent attitudes. The UC schools aren't supposed to discriminate on race anymore, so there may be less discrimination against Asians there than elsewhere.

What other outlier schools are there in terms of admissions policies?

What about outliers who  have climbed or fallen in prestige?  What did they do right or wrong?

Then, from this, are there any general lessons to be learned about how to get ahead in the college racket? I mean, other than to have been founded in 1636?

104 comments:

Anonymous said...

The NYT, in a story about overpriced education, talked about the big jump in prestige of George Washington U in the past few decades. Mostly GWU invested in the trappings of success - landscaping and beautiful buildings and other facilities - and now is fairly prestigious. They mentioned NYU as another school that did the same, and maybe a third that I don't recall.

Increasing relative wealth on the West Coast seems to have helped schools in that region, such as the University of Washington. I get the impression that Boise State has come up in the world of research (no, not just football) and schools in declining cities, like Johns Hopkins and Washington University of St. Louis have dropped a little in prestige.

With the end of anti-Jewish quotas in the Ivy League, the former outlet of high IQ Jewish kids, CUNY, has gone downhill since the 1940s, or such is my perception.

ironrailsironweights said...

One sort of outlier consists of those state universities which are legally required to admit all in-state applicants who meet some minimal academic standards. As far as I know there aren't as many of these universities as there used to be, but they still exist. They probably have very high dropout rates, thanks to the admissions policies.

Peter

Anonymous said...

You seem remarkably interested in the sort of things that you accuse the upper-east and upper-west-side manhattanites of!!!!

Anonymous said...

Reed fell tremendously in prestige from the 1950's. Then it was in the same class as Swarthmore and Amherst. But then, in 1966, Ken Keysey and his Merry Pranksters came through town and the rest is history.

Anonymous said...

I think that Washington University in St. Louis is much more prestigious than it used to be. They've gotten hundreds of millions of dollars from the Danforth familty (Ralston Purina).

I find it hard to believe that Reed and CalTech don't practice some degree of affirmative action.

agnostic said...

I wonder how well Brown's reputation is holding up these days. Seems to slowly fall each year in rankings.

Supposedly they discriminated a fair amount against Asians, but I'm not sure how that compared to peer schools.

They really went overboard on the whole diversity thing, actually letting a lot of them in rather than just having phony-baloney Studies programs that high-achieving white kids could take classes from.

And with Ruth Simmons at the helm, you figure a lot of the decision-makers have truly drunk the kool-aid there.

Not sure what the recent trend is, but back in the early 2000s I recall seeing WAY too many Rhode Islanders (per capita) in the facebook. RI and Maine are basically the West Virginia of the northeast, so how did so many RI-ers get in?

My guess is that the local government -- i.e. the Italian mob -- had a quid pro quo agreement with Brown. You let in lots of locals to make our state look great, and we'll look the other way if you want to build a new this or evade that on your tax returns.

It could be soon that it's just another second-tier spoiled kids' diversity playground like NYU or GWU.

The Asian of Reason said...

Mr. Sailer,

Are your kids about to go to college or something? I'm guessing this is why you've chosen to focus so much on the issue lately.

I don't think there are many changes in college prestige. Prestige is in the economic category of value-transference.

The UC schools don't practice racial preferences anymore. Consequently, the number of Asians has exploded. I actually think that the prestige of Cal and UCLA has gone down in the eyes of whites as they are now a minority at these institutions. Is it safe to say that Asians now own the UC system?

Anonymous said...

The rankings aren't going to change because one of the factors in each year's ranking is... what the ranking was last year!

Anonymous said...

UCI = University of Chinese Immigrants
UBC = University of Basically Chinese
UC Davis = University of Chinese in Davis
UC Berkeley = University of Chinese in Berkeley

SFG said...

Anon: good points all. My view from Back East:

NYU had a bequest of 1 billion dollars from an alum, that helps too.

Hopkins and Wash U aren't that prestigious, unless you count their med schools...Hopkins Med gives Harvard a run for their money.

Even Ivies are vulnerable to the city effect--Columbia actually rejected more people than Yale at one point (though their average SAT was still lower) as NYC became less dangerous.

Christopher Paul said...

Yes, Steve is actually interested in his areas of interest. Truly remarkable.

Anonymous said...

GWU also invested in top students--giving out full ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists, and half rides to semifinalists. That was back in the lat '80s-early '90s.

CUNY was probably hurt by the end of old-money-WASP control of the Ivies, but the bigger blow was Open Admissions, where every NYC high school graduate was automatically admitted.

Wilson said...

True, much hasn't changed at the top with regards to reputation, which suggests that inertia is really what it's about.

Think of how much else has changed since 1975, in terms of nation-states, or the Fortune 500. If Notre Dame or the University of Colorado suddenly started outproducing Harvard in terms of Nobel laureates or CEOs or Pultizer Prize winners their reputations would soar.

That won't happen, though, because Harvard gets the best inputs. It has the best outputs because it has the best inputs. It gets the most donations because its outputs (including dropouts, like Gates and Zuckerberg) are the most successful.

Reputations formed in the mists of time, and they are maintained largely due to inertia.

One thing I suspect that might change that is if their student bodies become too Asian. There are a lot of Asian success stories, but Asians are underrepresented culturally and politically relative to their presence at the nation;s elite colleges. Since cultural and political success are based on mostly subjective measures of quality, the successful in those fields will always be more representative of the overall population than the successful in business or science.

Thus if the Ivies became more Asian they would still produce highly successful alumni, but they would lose much of their cultural and political influence. Since CalTech isn't aiming for cultural or political influence it has no reason to discriminate for blacks and Hispanics or against Asians.

SFG said...

"You seem remarkably interested in the sort of things that you accuse the upper-east and upper-west-side manhattanites of!!!!"

Steve's a primate, just like the rest of us.

TGGP said...

"You seem remarkably interested in the sort of things that you accuse the upper-east and upper-west-side manhattanites of!!!!"
Like Tom Wolf.

Tino said...

Wash U is the only school that has raised much in ranking, thanks to money. Columbia has declined compared to 50 years ago.

Steve Sailer said...

I think Case Western Reserve has gone down in glamor because it's in Cleveland and has an awkward name.

Kevin K said...

Something to keep an eye on is that Texas is really pushing to get more "Tier 1" universities in the state. UT-Austin, Texas A&M and Rice are considered "Tier 1", but Texas is putting big bucks behind trying to attract large amounts of research money into UH, TTech, North Texas and a few others.

I guess by attracting Fed research money, they can attract better students.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6306445.html

Texas state schools are supposed to accept everyone in the Top 10%, but admissions at UT and Texas A&M are so competitive they are allowed to back it down to 8% I think.

william1066 said...

Harvard and others have dealt with dramatically rising college demand (for higher ed in general, not just at Harvard) by not accordingly increasing supply.

Further, increased usage of affirmative action serves to reduce the number of slots available to the truly well-qualified - so perhaps Harvard, etc., is making itself more exclusive for the rest of us by using race-based criteria.

Another point, if Ivys are getting more prestigious, potential legacies are more likely to get pushed to the front by their ambitious parents (I didn't say that the students were ambitious) If legacies are also getting in greater numbers - given that rich-gotten-richer parents can afford to write/donate ever more outrageous checks, legacies thus also have the potential to reduce the supplies of slots for all those hyper-achieving, non-AA-eligible Asians.

In sum, without increasing class size - while at the same time increasing allotments to the next generation of Obamas and Albert Gores, there should be a severe mismatch between supply and the demand for the truly brainy student at Harvard.

Anonymous said...

George Mason has risen due the high profile econ dept., mostly at the expense of University of Chicago.

I know an inordinate number of creative students who would love to go to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) - a college I hadn't heard of until just a few years ago.

There is a certain audience of intellectual which would place St. John (Annapolis and Santa Fe) above all others.

I think the general upper-middle class public might rate Stanford above the ivies.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if someone performed Inception on Steve Sailer and planted in his mind the idea that Asian academic success is inflated by an extreme degree of conscientiousness. Given how firmly the idea has taken hold in Steve's mind, I'd say that there were at least four layers of dreams involved.

"What's the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception"

Steve buddy, try to hang on to reality there. ;)

Anonymous said...

Actually the secret of NYU's success in going from a mainly commuter college for kids who couldn't get into Columbia was their hiring of a brilliant fundraiser who turned them around in the late 80's and early 90's. His name escapes me now but he was still there when I went there in the mid-90's. He's the guy who got the Tisches and whoevers to give billions, and he completely reimagined its image. He was so successful that Columbia actually stole him away in the late 90's!

Sylvia said...

Manhattan colleges are prestigious just by their location.

Anonymous said...

What about the various colleges described as the "last stop on the New Jersey turnpike," on account of the number of aggressive suburban kids from the Amtrak Acela corridor. Duke and UW-Madison both count, I believe.

Not sure how Duke, Vanderbilt, Rice, Emory, etc., have changed their mix of Southerner-Yankee-Jew-Asian as the times have changed, and how that may affect prestige.

Someone also pointed out that public schools are slipping inexorably downwards in the US News rankings - Berkeley is still top public but now below about 20 privates. They just can't compete financially.

Also, you'd think that as engineering continues its unstoppable rise, that the relative prestige of Stanford and MIT vs. the Ivy League would have increased, as it has. Now these two would definitely be considered better than the "lesser Ivies" - not always been true.

Harvard and Yale are both working hard to play catch-up in engineering, and reach the top 10 in that area. Last century, they didn't even let engineers into the same school - they had to go to the Lawrence or Sheffield Scientific School, and received B.S. (or SB) degrees, so as not to taint the purity of the BA (AB), for which Latin was a requirement.

Actually you can track the demise of Latin requirements and the rise of social-science departments, for the equivalent reshuffling 100 years ago, with the rise of Cornell, Chicago, Hopkins, Stanford, and the relegation of Oberlin, Amherst, etc. to small-college status.

Frederick Rudolph is a great historian of universities and a great writer.

nsam said...

Yale reputedly (currently) has the best undergrad experience (houses, quality of instruction) among the top Ivies. Columbia has a problem as students from some all-women college in the area also take classes there and that affects the exclusivity factor/reputation. I sense Brown isn't doing well (other than engineering?)and is seen as very left/liberal.. Harvard can do no wrong it seems (but it has probably passed its peak? and maybe has entered a long-term plateau/decline; if the age of super-star professors is over, then that would affect Harvard which relies on this strategy of hiring superstars instead of developing from within). Wash U at St. Louis has improved its reputation as has Rice?

Anonymous said...

Duke has gone way up in prestige since the 70s.

It's been as high as 4 in the US News rankings and generally beats some of the lesser Ivies.


In the 60s and 70s, it was just a private school...not exactly regional per se as it attracted many kids from the NE, but it was definitely not an Ivy level school.


As far as how it accomplished this...I don't know, besides being aggressive with recruiting and marketing. It jumped on some academic bandwagons by making big hires (e.g. critical theory) and made itself an attractive choice for the Harvard rejects--maybe because it's less obvious than going to Cornell or Brown.

International Jew said...

The prestige of automobile brands is almost as stable as that of colleges. Mercedes, Jaguar, Rolls Royce: does their quality even remotely justify their price? Have they kept up whatever advantage they had in, say, the 1960s, through the technological progress we've seen since then? (On the other hand BMW's prestige has climbed alot since the 60s, when it was something of a compact car.)

Another (maybe a little kooky) example: the popularity of spectator sports. How come Baseball, Football and Basketball still rule the roost? Are they really, objectively, the most fun sports to watch, and are they still that despite the big changes that have taken place in what you might call the American national character?

Truth said...

UCI = University of Chinese Immigrants
UBC = University of Basically Chinese
UC Davis = University of Chinese in Davis
UC Berkeley = University of Chinese in Berkeley

UCLA = University of Caucasians Lost amongst Asians.

Anonymous said...

Moreover, being a prestigious college like Harvard in 2010 seems like even a bigger deal than being Harvard in 1975. This suggests that the people running colleges have largely not messed up.

It was the Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s, followed by the GOP Congress's capital gains tax cuts in the 1990s.

Until about 1980 or 1985, the public schools [Berkeley, Michigan, Wisconsin, UVA, UNC, etc] were on roughly an equal footing with the private schools.

But after the tax cuts kicked in, the endowments of the private schools soared off into the stratosphere, leaving the public schools behind in the dust.

It's all about the $$$s.

And it doesn't help matters if the public universities have to devote massive proportions of their budgets to the Afro Studies Program, the Afro Student Union Lounge, the Chicano Studies Program, the Chicano Student Union Lounge, the School of Social Work, the Education Department, the football team, the basketball team, the track team, the legal defense team to keep the football players out of jail, etc etc etc.

Felix said...

There is no doubt that the more Asian a university becomes, the more it declines in quality. I wonder what the wonderful students at "Nanjing University of Technology" would get on the math SAT? Yet I don't expect to see the alumni of said university moving society forward any time soon.

The Bear said...

In particular, the list of prestigious colleges in 2010 seems quite similar to that of 1975.

Yep. Bama and Ohio State are ranked 1 and 2 (and Stanford is still slow).

Anonymous said...

I guess no one remembers the massive decline of the University of Chicago from one of the very top schools in the country back in the early to mid 20th century to where it is today -- perhaps top 20 but definitely not top 10.

Anonymous said...

"Texas state schools are supposed to accept everyone in the Top 10%, but admissions at UT and Texas A&M are so competitive they are allowed to back it down to 8% I think."

What if you're in the top 10% at a very good private school and some kid is in the top 8% at an all black school , does the private school kid miss out?

bgc said...

There is some preliminary evidence that elite US colleges may be choosing a conscientious and empathic personality (female traits) over intelligence.

Certainly, among a random sample of the highest-achievers, the proportion of women would be much lower than 50 percent, yet almost all elite colleges are admitting about half women.

http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2009/05/do-elite-us-colleges-choose-personality.html

This will have the effect of reducing the concentration of high achievers at all institutions, and spreading them around the university system.

It also implies that the modern elite must either be less smart than 30 years ago, or else they would need to be drawn from a wider range of institutions.

ironrailsironweights said...

At one major university all the football players made straight A's last semester.

This semester they're going to try writing B's.

Peter

Anonymous said...

Yes the outliers are Duke and U Chicago.

Duke shot up massively in the rankings and U Chicago dropped.

I would like to understand a little more why this is the case

bgc said...

Using Nobel prizes and other similar top-level awards, it is clear that Harvard's scientific research performance (which is the only objective international comparator of universities) has declined both relatively and absolutely over the past decade:

http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2007/07/nobel-prize-trends-19472006.html

http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2007/07/nflt-metric-for-revoutionary-science.html

http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2007/07/revolutionary-biomedical-science.html

*

MIT is therefore now, by a large margin, the premier world research institition.

*

While MIT is now mopping-up the big prizes for revolutionary science research, Harvard scientific faculty have been pumping-out an ever-larger volume of highly-cited, but ultimately second rate, science:

(See Table 2) -

http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/sapp.pdf

*

Harvard may be important for the US class system - for what it is; but MIT is important for the world, for what it does.

Anonymous said...

Truth, you got the last one wrong.

The UCLA nickname is Ugly Caucasians Living with Asians, for the huge number of nerdy white guys with Asian girlfriends.

Anonymous said...

http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/national-universities-rankings

University of Chicago ranked 9.

http://www.arwu.org/ARWU2010.jsp

University of Chicago ranked 8.

jody said...

hasn't the grade inflation scandal detrimentally affected the prestige of harvard, princeton, and yale? also i think princeton has been working hard for 15 years to get better than harvard and yale in most facets of it's university. i'm hardly qualified to evaluate how they are fairing in that endeavor, but i know it is trying.

columbia and penn seem to have retained their prestige, while i never hear about cornell or dartmouth anymore, and brown has declined in prestige in my estimation, probably due to it's commitment to being anti-white.

i agree that washington in saint louis has gained prestige, and johns hopkins might have lost some. not really familiar with how chicago was perceived in 1975 so cannot comment on it.

how did the duke rape hoax affect duke's reputation? and likewise, does winning the NCAA basketball championship counteract that? what about virginia tech and the virginia tech massacre? how did that affect VT?

it seems like penn state and michigan have declined in regard, while UVA and UNC have improved in esteem.

i would say that places like williams and amherst have increased in visibility, if not prestige. caltech does not seem much more visible though.

jody said...

"UCLA = University of Caucasians Lost amongst Asians"

truth nailed the correct. this is the oldest one, i think. i've never been to UCLA but this acronym sounds accurate.

"There is no doubt that the more Asian a university becomes, the more it declines in quality."

i've taken a few attempts on steve's blog to explain why this happens. at minimum, it should be self-evident that universities in china, japan, and korea, which are 99% east asian, don't dominate any fields, so the evidence is positively overwhelming that simply going "all east asian" is actually deleterious and not synergistic.

Anonymous said...

Racial predatory loans fueled U.S. housing crisis

Antioco Dascalon said...

Someone once noted (maybe even here?) that the factor that correlates highest with USN&WR ranking of universities is date of founding. Not much you can do to change that. Harvard will always be the oldest. There seem to be many exceptions though. I guess once you drop, it's hard to come back. William and Mary is quite old, but not quite as prestigious.

Geoff Matthews said...

Any movers in the mountain states (Montana down through New Mexico)?
People in Utah talk about BYU's rise with business and law, but both look like high-tier two programs (about 20-30 rank).

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact that Steve Sailer is completely fucking retarded and has a serious case of high-functioning autism and sociopathy.

Anonymous said...

"UCI = University of Chinese Immigrants
UBC = University of Basically Chinese
UC Davis = University of Chinese in Davis
UC Berkeley = University of Chinese in Berkeley

UCLA = University of Caucasians Lost amongst Asians."

I remember looking a brochure for the University of Toronto's Master of Accountancy program, which provided statistics that a third of the students were from the PRC. Futhermore, many of the photos in the brochure were of Chinese men and women, and not a single one had a black person in it.

I wonder what uTonoto's Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office would say if somebody pointed that out.

Anonymous said...

1. Re: Chicago, care to look at a time average of its ranking over the last 20 years? I'd guess it was out of the top 10 for most of that period, whereas in, say, 1950 it would have been solidly top 5 or 10.

2. "... it should be self-evident that universities in china, japan, and korea, which are 99% east asian, don't dominate any fields, so the evidence is positively overwhelming that simply going "all east asian" is actually deleterious and not synergistic."

You could use the same logic for continental Europe (or even Israel). No university there makes the top of the global list. Perhaps we should limit admits from Germany or France?

Steve Wood said...

One thing that has changed a lot in the last 30 years is the rise in prestige of the flagship campuses of some state universities. When I graduated from high school, the University of Maryland and Penn State were schools that any fairly bright in-state HS graduate could get into. If you had a 3.0 or better average and OK SAT scores, you were in.

Today, admission to both has become much more competitive, with many students who would have gotten into College Park or State College in 1975 ending up at one of the also-ran state schools.

Increasing demand for college (and, in Maryland, rising population) has contributed to this, but so has the stratospheric rise in tuition.

Although UMCP is not cheap - about $10,000/year in-state - it is a bargain compared with, say, GWU at a mind-boggling $43,000/year. And yet, the schools rank almost equally on the USNWR list: GW = 51; UMCP = 56.

GW probably offers a lot more financial aid, but that's still a huge difference. If you're a Maryland HS student - or the parent of one - you might think twice about spending an extra $30,000+/year just so your kid can go to a slightly higher-ranked private university.

Then again, I don't know how either school ranked in 1975, so maybe they haven't moved at all.

Has there been a similar phenomenon in other states?

KissTheGoat said...

Some anonymous wrote: (Steve get a real platform!)

> planted in his [Sailor's] mind the idea that Asian academic success is inflated by an extreme degree of conscientiousness.

Well their IQs aren't that much higher, and indeed Flynn's written a book, "Asian Americans: Achievement Beyond IQ" in which he estimates they achieve at 10(?) 20(?) points above their IQs wrt whites. (But granted, he doesn't believe much in IQ differences to start with.)

stari_momak said...

In social sciences there are a few big land grant universities in the midwest -- Michigan, Indiana -- which generate the new ideas or really careful studies. I'd choose U of Wisconsin for history.

In California, if I were a white kid today I'd pick SDSU for undergraduate over UCLA, certainly over UCI or Riverside or even UCSD, but probably not Berk or UCSB or (were I a hippy) UCSC. Davis, because of its tradition as an agricultural school, has a whole different vibe (as does the town).

I mean think of it -- we've had amply time to develop some interesting Asian thinkers in the US, and what have we got, Fukuyama? David Suzuki (but he's Canadian).

Anonymous said...

Steve, the point is that Harvard and their ilk can take first pickings of the cream of the crop.Essentially, it's a buyer's market and they are the buyer with mega-clout.
Whilst having that in-built privilege and advantage it's merely a minor matter in 'keeping up apearances' with some AA tokenism whilst relying on the actual talent to do its job and keep the rankings up.

dearieme said...

One of my daughter's chums looked into going to the US for graduate school. He concluded that he'd be a mug to go anywhere but Stanford.

Anonymous said...

@Jody

Not sure where you get the idea that East Asian universities don't dominate any fields. It's true that China and South Korea, because they modernized fairly late, are still in the early stages of developing their educational infrastructure. The top schools in Japan though certainly are at the forefront of many scientific fields as of late. You might want to consult the latest ARWU rankings, which are heavily biased in favor of the hard sciences. Japan generally has be ranked behind the US and the UK in terms of having the best science research universities in the world.

I've noticed that you seem to have an obsession with East Asians. You should really give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

An institution's age is important, although a few younger schools like Rice and Stanford have managed to become prestigious, while William & Mary and Willamette University (oldest college west of the Mississippi) are not exactly legendary.

The latest salacious scandal at Duke not only proves Tom Wolfe right, but makes me question the future of western civilization. If these are the smart girls, then we really are doomed:

http://blogs.forbes.com/kashmirhill/2010/09/30/the-privacy-landmine-that-is-duke-graduate-karen-owens-senior-thesis/?boxes=Homepagechannels

Simon in London said...

Prestige seems based on demand + restriction of supply. Increasing prestige is all about leveraging demand by restricting supply in such a way as to increase demand. ie: The harder it is to get in, the more people want to go there.

My University has much less prestige than one would expect given its size and age, due to its long term policy of easy-admission.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to what several commenters here have said, William and Mary is still fairly prestigious. It's not Harvard, obviously, but I think the enduring prestige of the school makes a good case for age as a significant factor. Quite frankly, there doesn't seem to be much else that would justify the esteem granted to this school.

Anonymous said...

You seem remarkably interested in the sort of things that you accuse the upper-east and upper-west-side manhattanites of!!!!

You sound remarkably like the sort of liberal type who loves to talk around certain subjcts but will not sho any serious interest in them in case the wrong conclusions be reached.

Bruce Banned said...

You would expect prestige to be inversely proportional to the degree with which Affirmative Action is implemented. California colleges will benefit long-run from their policy, Asians notwithstanding.
Who cares if Asians aren't exciting students? Campus life is for losers anyway.

Anonymous said...

It seems like Duke did it by giving students some of the at"old time" tradition...

1. nice looking campus
2. school spirit sports tradition
3. more than acceptable academics

The Ivies definitely lost a lot of the school spirit thing.

Added are...

nicer weather (at least during the main school months).

Roger Chaillet said...

Anonymous should look at the admissions criteria of CalTech. I did so a few weeks ago. Almost all freshmen have perfect or near perfect standardized test scores.

Roger Chaillet said...

Kevin K is not quite correct.

UT Austin has to admit the top 8% of all high schools, including those of the colonias in S. Texas.

Are you saying that Mexican kids from S. Texas can compete with whites, Chinese and South Asians from the affluent suburbs of Dallas?

Not hardly.

That's why the colonia kids will never mention standardized test scores.

That's why George Bush signed the Top Ten Percent law. It rewards marginal black and Mexican students at the expense of whites.

University admission is a zero-sum game.

Some kid from a colonia gets in.

A white kid from the suburbs does not.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall that NYU rose in prestige because it deviated from the norm and actually spent its endowment rather than hoarding it.

George Mason Law School is another example of clever strategy. It deliberately chose to specialize-- in law-and-econ in its faculty, and in having "majors" such as patent law for its students. It shot up from nowhere to 20 or so in the rankings, which was unheard of for law schools, where rankings are pretty rigid.

I don't think anywhere else has imitated these successful strategies. On the other hand, merit scholarships at state universities have taken off. I don't know which universities pioneered them.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to what several commenters here have said, William and Mary is still fairly prestigious. It's not Harvard, obviously, but I think the enduring prestige of the school makes a good case for age as a significant factor. Quite frankly, there doesn't seem to be much else that would justify the esteem granted to this school.

Have you ever been to Colonial Williamsburg [and Jamestown and Yorktown and Busch Gardens and Water Country USA and Newport News Naval Shipyard]? The place is gorgeous - heck, the whole state of Virginia is gorgeous*.

In fact, I'd say that physical beauty [to include climate] is one huge advantage that Duke has over Chicago - who wants to suffer those frigid Lake Michigan wind blasts and listen to the shrill hissing and cawing of a diversity outreach coordinator like Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama when you could be strolling through the Sarah P Duke Gardens and checking out the southern belle babe-age [and some choice asian babe-age] sunning itself in the flesh?

That one's a no-brainer.

*PS: A few years ago, in the wake of the female cadet controversy, the VMI alumni considered taking the school private, but choose not to, which I think was a terrible mistake - I honestly believe that a private VMI would have the capability of becoming the MIT or CalTech of the Southeast.

PPS: Speaking of Lexington, VA, one of the nation's truly great restaurants, The Southern Inn, pretty much burned to the ground in July, and is now operating out of a temporary location.

BamaGirl said...

Why no mention of Vanderbilt, Duke, or the University of Virginia?
All those schools are rather prestigious. As is Georgia tech if you're going into a stem field. There is no reason to ignore certain schools just because they are in the southeast.
Of course, all a decent earning power really requires is a useful degree from a flagship school at any state (other than the dinkier ones population wise ie North Dakota and the like.) You definitely don't have to attend the ivies or pseudo ivies to make 200k plus a year- many of my relatives have proven that.

Peter A said...

My impression is that UMass Amherst is slowly climbing. For the most part the student body is still semi-retarded - but the University has done an excellent job creating an elite program inside the state school which attracts kids who are just as smart as most decent private schools.

Anonymous said...

affirmative action is like a venereal disease: it has infected all of academia, and I disagree with your contention that it hasn't affected the prestige of places like Harvard. Steve, you don't really believe that the infiltration of mediocrities like Michelle & Barry Obama and Eric Holder into Harvard Law hasn't sullied its reputation? Pleez

Anonymous said...

My Alma Mater George Mason University has risen in prestige by the simple expedient of buying Nobel Prize winners.

George Mason is near the center of power - it's in the Washington D.C. suburbs. Apparently at some time a decade or two ago they decided that they should be a public policy power. The economics department already had Walter Williams - the most famous economist on YouTube and a Rush Limbaugh guest host favorite. They needed more more econ faculty with more conventional credentials.

They got James Buchanan and Vernon Smith both of whom had won the Nobel Prize in economics (and yes I know that it's not quite the same as the other prizes).

I first studied economic there so a little of the new university prestige rubs off on me.

So that's your answer for what is to be done if your university wasn't founded in 1636.

Today George Mason has thirty thousand students. When I went there in 1968 (the third year it had students) it had 250 in September and maybe half that by the following June. Today it has had a nationally recognized basketball team. When I went there the basketball team lost all its games.

But there were advantages to being at a small school. I didn't watch that terrible basketball team - I played center and managed it. I didn't just read the student newspaper - I founded it and was their first editor. The same was true for the glee club, the debate team and student government.

The reason the school wasn't a joke was because as part of the University of Virginia they had high grading standards even if they cheated a bit on entrance standards. This led to ferocious flunk out rates. In the American history class the previous year there had been one A one B and 26 Fs. In my class there were again 26 Fs. I got a B (I might have done better if I had read the book instead of the College Outline booklet). In the math class I had a numerical grade of 98, there was, as I remember, also a 97 and a 95. The next highest grade was under 50.

Most of the students were not "college material" but a few were and they did fine. The lesson seems to be not to adjust your standards to the level of the student body but keep your standards high and eventually you'll get the quality students.

Albertosaurus

jeannie said...

"There is a certain audience of intellectual which would place St. John (Annapolis and Santa Fe) above all others. "

I have a very smart Jewish cousin, who was a grind all through school, groomed to succeed by her father, and she got a full ride for St. John's in Santa Fe. It was the thing to do mid-60s. I loved and admired her, and wanted to follow in her footsteps but didn't have anything like the support she had...then the hippie thing hit.

Anyway, I followed up decades later and she never did ANYTHING. No career, no marriage, no kids...nothing. Teaches ESL in California.

She didn't even have much regard the Great Books program there, which she went through back in the golden days before PC..she probably now realizes they were written by DWEMs.

slyboots said...

For the poster who asked about land grant universities rising in prestige, I can report that it happened in Texas. When I was in high school (early-mid 80s), you were guaranteed admission to a University of Texas campus (mostly to UT Austin) if you were in the top quarter of your class OR got at least an 1100 (old) SAT.

The gigantic size of the UT endowment - oil wealth plus donations - and an aggressive policy of hiring Nobel laureates & the like, buying up prized cultural artifacts like a Gutenberg Bible or a collection of John Locke's manuscripts has fueled the school's rise in reputation and competitiveness.

Has it moved up in the USNWR rankings during that time? I don't know what its rank was back then, but it is now #13 among public universities.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, all a decent earning power really requires is a useful degree from a flagship school at any state"

In Cali its even more complex. If you are going to be in San Diego business, for example, other than really technical stuff you are probably better off going to SDSU than to UCSD -- and maybe even in some technical fields. USC of course will win hands down as an opportunity provider over UCLA. If you want to be in the wine business on the central coast, Cal Poly SLO is your school, not Davis.

Anonymous said...

OT -- LAT has article on HS football kickers, not much that hasn't appeared here.

Anonymous said...

Bruce Charlton upthread asserts that elite colleges are now less selective than they were, say, 30 years ago. In a link, he argues that they are selecting more for conscientiousness than for IQ, based on the higher than expected number of women admitted (that is, close to 50% rather than quite a bit lower).

I'm not sure this is necessarily true in general for elite colleges, though I suspect it might be true for, say, MIT, which is so much oriented toward technical subjects.

To begin with, I don't think there is any evidence that SAT scores have declined at any of those institutions; in fact, I'd guess that they have only gone up on average. Now the SAT has lost a bit of its g mojo in recent years, I believe, because they have thrown out some of the more g demanding questions (analogies, for example). But it's still probably the best metric we've got at that level as to the g level of applicants.

I believe the better way to think about how admissions committees make their decisions is to consider them as based more on evaluating various categories of candidates on what are essentially different tracks, based on implicit quotas. That is, they want to get the very top x% of various categories: the top x% of men, the top x% of women, the top x% of minorities, the top x% of athletes, the top x% of legacies, etc. The point is, the category comes first, and the implicit quota along with it, although those quotas are, I'm sure, rarely spoken of out loud, and the exact understood quota may vary somewhat from institution to institution.

Now, statistically, if this is what's going on, it may seem that, say, IQ is less important today than it was 30 years ago. For example, today, more women are being chosen, and their IQ (let's say) is lower among the top 0.5% than among the top 0.5% of men. Because of this result, Charlton argues that, more or less by default, it must be conscientiousness that has taken over greater importance.

To begin with, there's the issue that the SAT scores have not gone down, so it's not clear that on balance average IQ has gone down in any case. But more to the point of my argument here, that statistical result doesn't really get at the underlying causes, which may have nothing to do with increased attention paid to conscientiousness in particular across the board. In fact, it may be that increased attention is paid to SAT scores across the board, but that different categories exhibit quite distinct distributions of SAT scores. This latter possibility certainly seems to me to be a better model for what we are seeing in elite universities. One might indeed argue that SAT scores become far more important in the implicit quota model precisely because it becomes only more critical to get the very top performers in cognitively less favored categories, so that they can better compete.

Anonymous said...

If American becomes a failed nation because of Hispanic immigration, my guess is that the international reputation of all our universities will take a big hit.

At some point China will buy Harvard, disassemble all the buildings and reassemble them in Beijing. Then all its intellectuals can shill for immigration to China and wreck that country, too.

Anonymous said...

Wash U St. Louis,Northwestern, NYU and UPenn did a great job augmenting their reputations through savvy marketing, beautification, and using their graduate school reputations to boost their undergrad reps. So did Carnegie Mellon, which is in non-desirable Pittsburgh, but capitalized on the IT explosion. It went from a commuter school to a world class technical school, especially in computer science. Full scholarships to National Merit scholars helped.

I disagree completely with the first poster who thinks GW is prestigous and Wash U is not. What an idiot.

Duke and UChicago have significantly improved their prestige appeal from 20 years ago for sure.

Overall, though, Steve is right. There is a reason people on the East Coast refer to "HYPS" as the immutable gold bar.

Anthony said...

I think there's something to the idea that too many Asians affect the prestige of a school. On the other hand, lots of Asians can be a reflection of the actual quality of a school. Prestige != Quality.

Stanford has more prestige than Berkeley by almost any measure, but there are only a few departments where it's pretty clear that Stanford graduates are better-equipped than Berkeley grads, and more where Berkeley turns out better graduates. Stanford is almost definitely better in computer science, but Berkeley is better in most other engineering majors, for example.

Anthony said...

Regarding Asian achievement versus IQ, I see a complicated effect. Even limiting things to northeast Asians, there are two distinct groups in U.S. colleges: Asians who grew up in the U.S., and Asians who grew up in Japan, Korea or China. While the genetic propensities of both groups may be about the same (IQ, conscientiousness, lack of neuroticism, etc.), the filters operating on the two groups are very different. Asians going to school in Asia are in an environment which more strongly rewards conscientiousness and conformity than Asians going to school in the U.S.

Being smart and conscientious will make you wealthy in any remotely capitalist economy, but in a relatively open economy like the U.S., the really, really rich are those who are very smart and somewhat non-conformist. (On the other hand, in an economy which is "catching up", like China or India, being really smart and diligent, and a little ruthless, and following an established path, can make you really rich.)

So American universities which let in lots of students from China, Korea, and Japan, will produce lots of graduates who will end up upper-middle-class, and some will become millionaires. But very, very few of those will end up as world-beaters - the ones who will *have* $20 million to give to their alma mater when they're 55. A university which lets in lots of American-born Asians instead will see graduates who mostly have a little less (but still upper-middle class) income, because they aren't quite as diligent, but there will be more really rich alumni.

Omnivore said...

According to this website Reed is 55% female. They don't tell us the racial %s, but you can see that it's probably 10% black. Of course this is AA.

http://collegestats.org/college/reed-college

Truth said...

"Steve, you don't really believe that the infiltration of mediocrities like Michelle & Barry Obama and Eric Holder into Harvard Law hasn't sullied its reputation? Pleez"

Yeah Steve, even you're smart enough to know that having the POTUS as an alumni is apocalyptic to a school's reputation!

Dutch Boy said...

Truth said...
UCI = University of Chinese Immigrants
UBC = University of Basically Chinese
UC Davis = University of Chinese in Davis
UC Berkeley = University of Chinese in Berkeley

UCLA = University of Caucasians Lost amongst Asians.

Don't forget USC = University of Spoiled Children

Anonymous said...

@ Steve Wood: "Has there been a similar phenomenon in other states?"

Apparently the University of Georgia has benefited greatly from the HOPE scholarship program. This is funded by the Georgia state lottery, and it means that any resident of Georgia who maintains a B average goes to an in-state school tuition free. Given the rise in tuition charges over the last twenty years, this is an offer too good for many people to refuse, and so students who might have gone to Duke or even Yale are now going to UGA. They have been able to significantly raise their SAT scores as a result. It's still a big party school, with football team, etc. but a smarter one. Other state schools have also been able to raise their standards although not by as much.

Anonymous said...

"I guess no one remembers the massive decline of the University of Chicago from one of the very top schools in the country back in the early to mid 20th century to where it is today -- perhaps top 20 but definitely not top 10."

The University of Chicago was never much interested in training undergrads, even back in the 50's. It still has many top 5 graduate departments, especially in math and science, but 18 year old kids avoid it because of its isolation in the middle of one of the most dangerous black slums in America.

The U of C police keep Hyde Park very safe, though; actually, they do a much better job of protecting students than the Cambridge, MA police, who are tied up by PC rules.

Doug1 said...

Stanford definitely is more prestigious than most of the Ivies, and harder to get into. Less prestigious than Harvard, but more so than the rest except possibly Yale, though that's heavily for old name sake. Among the Ivies, Brown, Dartmouth, U Penn and Cornell are definitely less prestigious than Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia.

The most prestigious and best engineering schools are MIT, CalTech and Stanford.

The most prestigious non Ivies outside of engineering are Stanford, Berkeley, U. Chicago, Duke, U. Michigan.

Leonard said...

George Mason is near the center of power

Yes, as is UMCP, and GWU. Georgetown has been pretty highly ranked for a while, but those others have not been. Physical proximity to power matters. The absence of top schools in the imperial capital is a mismatch of prestige to power that started after WWII, and is steadily correcting itself.

helene edwards said...

Sorry OT, but in this photo of Tiger at the Ryder Cup, check out the Paki with the cigar in the front row. If only our vibrants were this civilized.

http://sports.yahoo.com/golf/blog/devil_ball_golf/post/Tiger-Woods-gives-us-the-greatest-golf-photo-you?urn=golf-274331

not a hacker said...

I think what we need an intrepid blogger to do is divine to what extent (we already know how) the UC system has been evading gaming Prop. 209. I assume that absent that gaming, there could have been no WSJ front page story in 2005about a Vietnamese kid from Garden Grove with a 1560 SAT score who got rejected by UCLA.

alonzo portfolio said...

re AA pervading all of college, I assume everyone here is aware of what a Harvard government prof., Harvey Mansfield, told his students in 2002. He said from now on I'll give you two grades, your real grade and your transcript grade. The former is what you would have earned prior to 1975, when AA starting watering standards down. He explicitly told them that in order to avoid flunking blacks, C+'s had to become A's for everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Raising funds from alumni and other donors is a big thing. They want to point to the size of their endowment and think that moves them up the prestige rankings. President Beinen made that a priority at Northwestern (and had experience from Princeton playing that game). Also the usual in terms of hiring prestige research professors and the like (that have little correlation to undergrad education, but still the brand seems to be helped). There may be something in terms of increased grad school education and b-schools and the like, but I don't really have a formed thought on that...just noting that we are turning into an MBA society...

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but not sure where to post it. I have been LMFAOing at 419eater.com (site debated to internet trolling of Nigerian email fraudsters). they get these guys to go on trips, send money, make nude photos. It's hard core Internet trolling. Seems to show the Internet as a mechanism and also interesting things about Africa. Some of the "master baiters" even learn African languages and culture to better screw with the fraudsters...

Got one fellow to create a portfolio of pics and sign an application to be a porn star. Another couple were routed to foreign countries and burned up their own money for travel for weeks (with family going crazy at the expenses). Another dude was convinced to build a go-kart and dress up as a crocodile.

The Asian of Reason said...

***
UT-Austin admissions

As a former student, I can attest to the fact that there were many unqualified students from the "colonia" parts of Texas (south and west). There were also many unqualified students from the country. These kids were usually white.

The suburban Asians and whites who can't get in the first time can usually transfer in. I've known many Hispanic students who couldn't hack it and dropped out. Many of them would come in with grand visions of being doctors, but quickly dropped those dreams as they came across Asians who were not only smarter, but had better work ethic and study habits.

Some of the kids could have succeeded if they had been given proper training in high school. Some of them would have been doomed either way. Some of them made it out in easier majors. Some of them were gifted enough to overcome the obstacles.

Even though Texas law allows for the top 10% (now 8%~) kids to get in to UT-Austin, I did not see a noticeable population of urban blacks. Blacks were still underrepresented despite the de facto AA policy. And many of the blacks I knew were second-generation blacks.

keypusher said...

Anonymous said...

Racial predatory loans fueled U.S. housing crisis


Bad resarch leads to bad policy, which leads to bad results, creating a demand for still worse research leading to still worse policy...and so on.

SKT said...

I'm in the medical field so I may see Wash U differently. Their medical school is very well respected.

As such - for us at least - some of that prestige also rubs off on folks who go there for undergrad.

Anonymous said...

The quality of students at elite US universities has gone up in recent decades because the average American is much more interested in elite education than they were in the past. The smart kid who might have attended State U in 1980 is now using the common application to apply to a dozen top private universities. It is easy to check this assertion by looking at test scores over time.

Whiskey said...

A long term bet is schools in the Mountain West as Whites increasingly move to Whitopia. This would include, aside from Boise State, Univ. of Idaho, Univ of Utah, BYU, Univ. of Wyoming, Univ of Nevada, UNLV, Univ. of Montana, and perhaps Univ. of New Mexico and New Mexico State (as the Hispanic population, though poor, is stable, and seems to experience little in-migration). So too, Univ of Colorado, and Colorado State.

Whiskey said...

Oh speaking of Duke ...

the Duke University F-List from a young woman who prepared a mock thesis powerpoint on her various liasons. The university is mad, her liasons are mad (she rated some of them poorly for expertise and equipment) ... and she's got a book deal and possibly a movie deal!

Nevertheless, Duke is experiencing stuff that is going to hurt them. Full Freight White guys will think of other places, and definitely their parents. Too much PC can definitely hurt you if you're not Harvard and Yale, and even that can be questionable. I'd think that Virginia can possibly move ahead (no question VT's been hurt by a number of issues including the on-campus shooter, Rutgers by the suicide).

Anonymous said...

"The quality of students at elite US universities has gone up in recent decades because the average American is much more interested in elite education than they were in the past."

Is this a conjecture or something known as a fact?

When comparing academic journals from the 1960s versus the present, I can't help but see a huge disparity in the quality of writing and analysis. Engineering and science papers from the 60's typically required a lot of heavy mental lifting. Most engineering and science papers today are highly formulaic, depend heavily on canned computer routines, and usually hew closely to conventional wisdom. And they are poorly written, partly because so many of the authors are ESL writers. This would suggest elite colleges produced better students in the '60s.

In terms of creative product and raw ability, I do believe students coming out of the Ivy League are worse in 2010 than in 1970, or the 1950s, for that matter. Test prep has a lot to do with it because now a lot of 95%-tile students are capable of faking higher intelligence on standardized college entrance exams. It's harder for admissions people to see who's really making it and who's faking it so they are more likely to admit substandard students. It's the reason for so much prejudice against Asian students who are most likely to have prep-enhanced SAT scores (Harvard and Princeton re-normalize Asian scores, as they should). That and the fact that Asians donate less money as alumni.

I think elite universities should abolish standardized testing for their own testing. That way incoming students have a verifiable core of knowledge and set of advanced academic skills.

Whiskey said...

And oh yes, Karen Owen is a "nice" and "smart" girl. No different really from many girls at schools like Duke. The only difference is her emailed powerpoint went viral.

Jack said...

Sports has obviously helped for some schools - Duke, obviously (though not without hits to the schools reputation). Notre Dame isn't as good at football as they used to be but they've taken over Georgetown at the best Catholic school. Boston College used good sports and a good location to rival the lower Ivies. Similarly, GWU and NYU are much better than when I was applying to college; more people (Especially girls) want to live in cities.

And I'm sorry but it's not "HYPS" it's "HYP". Stanford is on a slightly lower plane and always has been.

Anonymous said...

Asians are grinds, but they're plenty smart too. Look at Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.

Hispanics, blacks, Native Americans, Filipinos, Pacific Islanders, and other NAMS would be better off picking an easy, mildly technical major (industrial engineering, economics, marketing, sales, business) rather than batting the ferociously competitive Asian and Indian premeds for a shot at Dr. status.

I can guarantee you that Indian-American kids are fairly bright, but a lot the overrepresentation in medicine is because of pushy, status/money driven parents. There's also a willingness, among kids, to work diligently and endure hardship in order to make it. So you see a lot of Indian kids go to the Carribean to study medicine and hope that they can pass the USMLE to get to practice medicine here. Some can and some can't, but the willigness to work hard and sacrifice is pretty strong. I'd bet Asians must be the same way, though to a lesser extent. I think Iranians and perhaps Eastern Europeans/Russian immigrants are this way too.

IQ matters.... but family, personality, and work/study habits make a major difference, especially in academics. To the extent that Asians/Indians beat whites, I'd say IQ is of somewhat lesser significance than these other factors. You'll notice that the more fobby the Asian/Indian, the more grindish they tend to be.

Anonymous said...

"With the end of anti-Jewish quotas in the Ivy League, the former outlet of high IQ Jewish kids, CUNY, has gone downhill since the 1940s, or such is my perception."

That may have been part of it, but CUNY was still a well-regarded university system until the 1960s when they introduced their open admissions policy, due to rioting black and Hispanic students. This new policy allowed any high school grad to attend CUNY. Oddly enough, back during CUNY's golden age, students barely had to pay anything for their education(the state and city subsidized almost all of it); now that a CUNY education is utterly worthless, its costs prohibit many students from attending.

City College, the most elite of CUNY schools was once referred to as "the poor man's Harvard" many decades ago. This is no longer the case obviously, but CUNY has slowly regained some lost prestige in recent years with this new honors program as well as making it a little harder for anyone to attend(like having students pay for their own education).

Omnivore said...

Truth/Dutch Boy:

What would UNLV stand for?

Truth said...

"And I'm sorry but it's not "HYPS" it's "HYP". Stanford is on a slightly lower plane and always has been."

Truly, it's just "H"

Anonymous said...

Pepperdine moving from Watts to Maibu seems to have worked out.

Goatweed

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, back during CUNY's golden age, students barely had to pay anything for their education(the state and city subsidized almost all of it); now that a CUNY education is utterly worthless, its costs prohibit many students from attending.

Gee, that is odd.

Who'da thunk it?

Must be just one of those strange coincidences.

Nothing to see here folks - now move along.

Skit. Skedaddle.

Fred said...

Last guy commenting here, but this is where you'd want to look for new prestigious colleges: start with a list of huge donations to small schools. For example, there was a little state school in southern New Jersey that was given $100 million by a local billionaire who I don't think was even an alumnus of it (Rowan University). I don't know if it's on the national radar screen, but I'm sure it's more prestigious now than it was before the big donation.