Choosing Your Future Alma Mater: How Much Does it Really Matter?

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All over America, high school seniors are sweating out what to many seems like the most important decision of their lives: what college to attend. But a new study suggests that although parents may care about which university their children attend, it may not really make much difference to the career path of the students themselves.

The research by Princeton economist Alan Krueger found that students who chose a less competitive college over a more competitive one made just as much money as those who attended the more elite school.

In addition, the schools that reject a student are the actually best predictor of how much money that student will make. Basically, if a student is ambitious enough to apply to a top school, they are ambitious enough to succeed wherever they end up.

But college is about so much more than just increasing your future earnings potential. It's about the people you meet; the interests you discover; the experiences you enjoy.

This hour, as the nation's high school seniors (and their parents) struggle to determine where they will spend the next four years of their life, we ask how much of a difference does the college you attend really make? And how do you know which is the right school to select?


Bruce Hammond, co-author of "The Fiske Guide to Getting Into The Right College"

Tom Redburn, economics editor at The New York Times, wrote "Ivy League or Also-Ran? Does It Matter?"

Anne McGrath, Special Projects Editor at U.S. News and World Report, editor of "America's Best College Guide Book"

This program aired on April 25, 2002.


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