What’s In a Name?


When we started White Picket College a few months ago, one of our big goals was to help upper middle class (UMC) parents and students find college scholarship money for Ivy League schools.  But now that we’ve heard back from many frustrated UMC parents, we may be changing our game plan a bit.

Firstly, it’s time to analyze, what’s in a name?  Really, what does an Ivy League name say to people?  Let’s face the facts, saying you went to Harvard will impress friends, family, colleagues and those you meet at random parties.  But what about the value of education at a particular Ivy League institution, and what about other institutions that rank higher than the Ivies, such as Stanford and MIT that aren’t Ivies?

I’ll share my personal experience with everyone.  I went to a prestigious undergraduate school and another equally prestigious school for my Master’s degree.  In between, I took a couple graduate classes at Harvard.  They were good.  I learned a good amount.  The professors were good, including one I still stay in touch with from time to time.  I believe he wrote me a recommendation for my Master’s if I’m not mistaken.  I was happy with the overall experience.

However, to this day, I will tell anyone who asks my prestigious undergraduate school was much more challenging than Harvard.  The professors were much tougher–they demanded and expected more.  The assignments were more challenging as well.

In comparison to the school where I received my Master’s, Harvard was about equal.

I spent a lot of money on two classes at Harvard, and quite frankly, I really wasn’t blown away.  Was I satisfied?  Yes.  Could I have gone to Boston University, Boston College or Wellesley College for half the price and received an identical or better experience?  Yes.

The reason I’m telling you this is not to put down Harvard.  It is a good institution, but I’m not sure if it’s the best.  And I’m certainly not sure it’s the best value for a challenging education.  And that includes the entire Ivy League.

We’ve also heard responses from frustrated parents telling us that Harvard is unwilling to give UMC admitted applicants any money.  We’ve heard this complaint a lot,  since April 2010.  One parent even reported the financial aid officer at Harvard flat-out said they only give merit scholarships or college grant money to low-income students or lower income middle class students–and charge everyone else full price.  So, the intelligent and gifted UMC students are left behind, and must choose their second or third choice college.

The main problem with this is Harvard’s competitiveness will eventually fall.  If the school accepts high-achieving low income to middle class income students, that’s fine.  But then you mix this small number of students with upper class students who are not as talented or as gifted, the school will eventually began to decline in the rankings.

This is why I believe that second and third choice schools may start to become first choice schools over the next ten years.  There’s a reason why state schools are now graduating some of the smartest kids in the nation.  There’s a reason why schools like Swarthmore and Rice University are on the best value colleges list.

The bottom line is schools that do not give substantial college financial aid to UMC students are missing out on a huge pool of gifted young men and women.  These young adults are the future, and will become the next leaders in the US.  We need these graduates to compete against China, Russia, India and other world leaders … but the great thing is they don’t need a Harvard degree to do this.

Keep watching and listening.  You will see the state schools getting extremely competitive.  And you will see those second and third choice schools pumping out the leaders for future generations to come.

~ the WPC team

© White Picket College, 2010 – College Funding for the Upper Middle Class

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