Absolutely agree, CFK. The reason that I posted the Forbes list was two-fold:

a) Ivies don't actually seem to confer as much benefit as one might imagine based upon their prestige (and cost!)

b) Price comparisons-- the costs of anything BUT a local public university are downright staggering unless you receive very significant merit/need-based assistance.

Definitely not doom-and-gloom. Pragmatism. Honestly, when you look at the data, it's hard to argue for the costs of a private "elite" institution. Knowing what we do-- that is, that about 80% of a college experience is what the student themselves brings to it/works for-- it's tough to beat the relative bargain of a local public college/university.

We are also of the opinion that 12-15K a year for "living expenses" is outrageous to the point of indefensible when the student can live at home while attending undergrad. There are ways to make this a lot cheaper than 40-75K a year, particularly for very high ability students. As CFK notes, merit aid IS generous even now-- there's just a catch. It's most generous at a place where such students are relatively rare. (Non-'elite' colleges, mostly public ones.)

I also look down that Forbes list of colleges, and I only come up with about four schools in their top 200 that I think are remotely worth the sticker price-- even in light of everything that I've said about my DD needing high-ability peers.


Honestly? My priorities and my DH's differ substantially even though we are looking at the same data. He leans toward a ritzy private college "experience" for his princess (sigh-- I guess you can tell already how I feel about this, right?)* and me? I look at the numbers and my frugality kicks in and I just can't justify the expense-- not even remotely.

I think to myself... I went to a regional directional college, and I got into PLENTY of very fine, tier-one grad programs. Friends went to very illustrious places, including the likes of CalTech, MIT, Penn, Nebraska, etc. So it's not like that kind of undergrad experience limits your future if you're in a merit-based field like STEM. I had no trouble with grantsmanship, landing a teaching job right out of grad school, etc. In spite of my apparent lack of the right pedigree, I mean.

I just don't see our DD having the kind of ambition that mandates that higher pedigree.

PERSONALLY, I think that she'd be better off going to a local public university and growing up a little more. Exploring what she actually wants to do-- maybe tripling a major and taking 5y.

I also worry about the effect of the pressure on her if she knows that we're writing a check for 60K for each additional year. I worry that she won't take risks because of the expense.

At our local Uni, she could attend for about 6K a year. EASY. I'm not even all that certain that even MIT is actually worth the 50K premium over and above that.

* Truthfully, I think that he's got some inner hazy mashup of smoking jackets and men discussing their progeny at 'the Club' with fresh-scrubbed girls strolling earnestly through bright fall foliage in cardigans, plaid skirts, and saddle shoes. I think he's dreaming of a world that no longer exists-- if it ever did. I understand the "dream" here in relationship to understanding WHO our daughter is (she's a throwback type "intellectual" who would benefit greatly from that kind of old-school environment)... but I'm less convinced that it is authentically available at ANY price in the contemporary real world.

Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.