Education: Is An Ivy Degree Worth Remortgaging the Farm?

In his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, the author somewhat sourly recalls teaching at Harvard in the 1870s. What seemed to perplex Adams was the naive faith of his students that their education somehow had a purpose and a utility. When he finally asked an undergraduate what he intended to get out of his studies, Adams was startled by the answer: "The degree of Harvard College is worth money to me in Chicago."

The only aspect of this century-old anecdote that might be dated is Adams' surprise. This year, when Harvard sifted through 12,843 applications to fill 1,605 places in...

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