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Ivy League diplomas still worth price of admission?

Other schools may provide comparable educational value. But Ivy League schools provide an incomparable social network that can help graduates throughout their careers.

March 3, 2011

Dollar for dollar, other universities may provide a comparable education with Harvard University (shown here in this May 2010 photo). But an Ivy League degree makes a résumé stand out. And the social network formed in undergraduate years can prove quite useful later on.

Taylor Weidman / The Christian Science Monitor / File


By Mark Koba,

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They're often called the elite eight, boasting U.S. presidents, Nobel Prize winners, Wall Street CEOs, world leaders—as well as famous actors and musicians—among their alumni.

But they're incredibly expensive and getting more so—prompting many students and families to ask: Is an Ivy League diploma really worth the money?

No. And, well, yes. When it comes to education, they may be a draw with other schools, say analysts. But if your concern is getting and keeping a well-paying job for a lifetime, the Ivy League is still hard to beat.

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"When an employment recruiter looks at an Ivy League degree, they will usually look at it more carefully," says Elena Bajic, founder and CEO of Ivy Exec, an online executive job search site. "An Ivy League education makes a candidate stand out, even before a recruiter talks to them."

Besides a high-profile degree, Ivy league schools provide a social network that other schools can't duplicate—emphasizing it's who you know as much as what you know, says Brian Eberman, CEO of, an education comparison site.

"From an undergraduate perspective, the primary advantage of Harvard or Yale is the connections that college creates between the students and their peers," Eberman explains. "Those connections can be quite valuable over time when it comes to jobs and salaries."

For the eight schools—Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania—their pedigree is long established. Seven of the schools are older than the American Revolution. (Cornell was founded in 1865.)

And admission standards for all are intimidating—they mostly take the top ten percent of a senior high school graduating class with the highest of SAT scores. All have sizeable endowments and get plenty of financial support from alumni while drawing first-class teachers.


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