I agree with a lot of the comments above.

I went to a small elite liberal arts college and got a first rate education. But that college has changed, and I don't think it's as good as it used to be.

Also, I converted the total cost of attendance at my college in my senior year, and got $43,800 in today's money. Today, the total cost of attendance at elite colleges is around $75,000. That's an insane price hike.

Personally, I don't think the elite schools are worth it today. I argued upthread that small class sizes and excellent instruction are very important, but you can get both of those at a community college. For example, I took a modern physics course for majors last year. There were 20-ish students in the class and the instructor was outstanding. It cost something like $140.

As for upper-level classes, they get smaller at the big universities. Not sure how small.

There is the question of status. I have a whiff of arrogance concerning people who are concerned with status. But that's just me.

Bottom line, IMO, the competitiveness of American society is a big factor undermining our universities. One outcome is the crazed focus on ELITE SCHOOLS when the point is really lack of EDUCATIONAL AND EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVERYONE. Elite schools should be places where very bright people go to learn history or science or engineering or whatever, not places where wealthy people pay admissions bribes both legal and illegal because...status. But I am an idealist.