3 Ways Public Colleges Trounce Ivy League Schools

Attending an expensive private school isn’t necessarily the path to riches and happiness

May 18, 2014 at 1:27PM

StudyingSource: Flickr / scui3asteveo.

As a new crop of college graduates join the ranks of job seekers, things are looking a bit brighter on the employment front. The economy has begun creating many more new jobs, and a recent poll indicated that companies plan to increase their hiring of new college graduates by 8.6% this year.

But competition is still tough in the post-crisis job market, and many graduates of public colleges and universities may feel at a disadvantage to those whose newly minted degrees hail from more illustrious private schools.

If you are wondering whether Ivy League graduates have an edge over public college attendees, take heart. When it comes to achieving success – both at the career and personal level – graduates of the nation's public college system may actually have a leg up on those from those pricier schools. Let's count the ways.

Diploma

Source: Flickr / gadgetdude.

Employers don't care which college you attended
While the general public may put a lot of emphasis on a graduate's alma mater, hiring managers do not. When a recent Gallup poll asked over 600 business leaders if they considered where an applicant received his or her college degree a very important factor in the hiring process, only 9% said yes.

When members of the public were asked the same question, 30% replied that they thought companies considered this issue very important.

What did managers consider the most important factor when deciding whether or not to hire a college graduate? A whopping 84% said that the amount of knowledge a candidate exhibited about their chosen field is very important, while 79% noted that applied skills were also a major consideration.

Overall well-being is just as high in public college grads as their private-school peers
Gallup and Purdue University interviewed over 30,000 college graduates on their feelings of employee engagement and well-being, and found no differences between graduates of public colleges and private schools. What did matter to post-college feelings of success and happiness were the positive experiences graduates encountered during their college days.

The most highly rated experience, regardless of the type of college attended, was having at least one instructor that made learning fun and exciting.

Costs at public colleges are usually much lower
This fact is widely known, but takes on new urgency in light of the two Gallup surveys.

For example, the level of student debt in the Gallup-Purdue study had a direct effect on the feelings of well-being experienced by college graduates, with a mere 2% of those shouldering between $20,000 and $40,000 in college loan debt describing themselves as "thriving".

This is huge – particularly since employers don't put much emphasis on whether job applicants attend public or private schools. As one of Gallup's researchers commented, "If you can go to Podunk U debt free vs. Harvard for $100,000, go to Podunk. And concentrate on what you do when you get there." With college debt levels at crisis proportions, those are definitely words to live by.

A public college education isn't the only investment that pays great dividends
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