I Want To Love You, Harvard, Yale, Princeton (HYP!)

A research based look into how elite private universities perpetuate and grow the gap between the rich and the poor

If you asked me what was on my mind at any point throughout the past two years, 7/10 times the answer would probably be college. It was (is?) my thing. Need help writing an essay? Filling out your common app? Finding the school with the best program for your major? Making a list of pros and cons? Yep, I can do all that while juggling kosher bolognas.

I was basically a college counselor to many of my friends. Now, this obsession with my future came from a couple sources. The first would be both of my parents' high degrees (pun intended) of success: My mom has a B.A. from Vassar College, a J.D. from Boston University, and a Masters in Social Work from The University of Chicago.

As evidenced by wee little Gillian's Michigan sweatshirt, college
has been on my mind from a young age. Photo by my mom.

My father has a B.A. and a J.D. both from the University of Michigan. The second would be that for the majority of this process I was having a private boarding school if-I-don't-go-Ivy-I'll-die mentality shoveled tirelessly into my brain. And the third was my own very high expectations for myself.

But the second and third reasons would not exist if it weren't for the first. From a very young age, I was bred to be successful in school. I participated in after school science programs, was enrolled in the higher level English classes, and was told all throughout high school that "getting good grades is my job" (not knocking my parents at all, I love where I've ended up).

While my parents both attended "elite" schools, they still aren't in that very top caliber of the Ivies or even more exclusively, the golden triangle of HYP (HYPM, if we're going to be liberal here (M is MIT)). These schools give an advantage that simply cannot be found anywhere else. Reich states: "Private University endowments in 2014 totaled around $550 billion, centered in a handful of prestigious institutions. Harvard's endowment is more than $32 billion, followed by Yale at $20.8 billion, Stanford at $18.7 billion, and Princeton at $18.2 billion" (148).
An old cigar box from the 1890's depicts the "Big Three" of
college football.
Source: Unidentifiable, but from Collectorsweekly.com

Much of this money comes from the the school's gratuitous alumni, who want to thank the school for getting them that job on Wall Street, or to secure a spot for Junior in the class of 20-whatever. We've talked about the school-to-prison pipeline in class. Now re-imagine that pipeline: it's golden, plated with diamonds, and has merlot rushing through it. Wait, this isn't even a pipeline. Pipelines are nasty. It's a waterslide. That leads the graduates of these schools straight to high-paying and powerful careers.

The very look of a top-tier, big-name college on a resume can be enough for a company to give an applicant the job or coveted internship. But the powerful alumni networks of such elite schools are a huge factor in this pipeline/waterslide. Harvard Business Review writes that, "US mutual fund portfolio managers placed larger concentrated bets on companies to which they were connected through an education network. And the fund managers performed significantly better on those connected positions than they did on nonconnected ones, to the tune of 7.8% a year."

What this means is that those at the top are helping each other climb up even higher, repeatedly.

On the current Supreme Court, six of the nine justices bow down to the Crimson. The three who don't swear allegiance to Yale or Princeton. Not to mention that this is only counting one of each of the justices' degrees. Three of the top ten Fortune 500 companies CEO's hold a degree from an Ivy League institution. Those who don't hold alma maters including Duke University, University of Chicago, and Stanford University (more elite, private institutions).

And thus, the cyclic, extravagant waterslide is created. Dad goes to Harvard, Dad works at Goldman Sachs, Dad donates to Harvard, son is accepted, son works at Berkshire Hathaway...you get the idea.

Reich also makes an interesting point about the difference between prestigious private institutions and public universities. While there are many, many state-funded universities that will wow a potential employer, they lack the large endowment income that private institutions receive: "...the average annual government subsidy per student at a public university comes to less than $6,000, about one-tenth the per-student government subsidy at Princeton," writes Reich. "This is another cause and consequence of the squeeze on the middle class and the poor and the soaring wealth of those at the top."

A meme from the Harvard Group. Yes Vassar has one too, if you were
wondering. "Vassar 2021 Dank Memes for the Over-Zealous Liberals"
Source: Harvard Meme Group, uploaded by Chukwuma

And the kids in the Harvard Meme Group (affectionately titled "Harvard Memes For Elitist 1% Tweens") still manage to complain about the insufficient lineup for their spring concert.

I know this may seem like an interesting perspective, coming from a young woman who is a will be a legacy at the small, elite, private liberal arts college she will be attending next year. With that being said, I want to make clear that I did not apply to or choose Vassar because I was a legacy. How much my legacy helped in my admission I will never know, but I do still believe I got in on my own merit. I believe this because being triple legacy at Michigan, I still did not receive an offer of admission.

I'm also very proud of my school, as it is ranked as the most socioeconomically diverse "top college" in the country by the New York Times. After living in Northbrook my entire life, having exposure like that will be important and very beneficial to me and my world view.

My beautiful school :')
Photo by me 

Works Cited
Jacobs, Peter. "You'll Be Surprised by Where the Most Powerful Fortune 500 CEOs Went to College." Business Insider. Business Insider, 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 09 May 2017.
Leonhadt, David. "The Most Economically Diverse Top Colleges." The New York Times. The New York Times, 08 Sept. 2014. Web. 09 May 2017.
Malloy, Lauren H. CohenChristopher J. "The Power of Alumni Networks." Harvard Business Review. Harvard University, 31 July 2014. Web. 09 May 2017.


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