Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Making Room At The Top

Every libertarian seems to have his blind spots, mine very well may be stem cell research, Coyote's seems to be Ivy League Schools.

Which leads me to my main point -- the Ivy League needs to find a way to increase capacity. The number of kids that are "ivy-ready" has exploded over the last decades, but the class sizes at Ivy schools have remained flat. For years I have been campaigning at Princeton for this, and I am happy to see they are increasing the class size, but only by a small amount.

This argument makes little sense to me. The value in Ivy League schools is that they are the top schools, not that they provide the best education - though that may be a by-product.

If this top tier of schools accepts 1% of the students then expanding admissions to the top 2% of students only diffuses the benefits that the top students would have otherwise had. If there really are more people that are "Ivy League ready" then the market will produce a tier of colleges that are perceived as nearly Ivy League in quality. Its fine if Yale, Princeton and others want to accept more students to make more money or provide other benefits to their students it isn't going to produce any value to society as a whole.

Its the same for secondary education as a whole, it was perceived that you had to go to college to succeed so we started sending everyone to college. Now that the signal is gone - college is no longer a signal of excellence - the very ambitious need to get advanced degrees to differentiate themselves.

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