How Powerful Is The Ivy League?

September 7, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


U.S. President Barack Obama’s oldest daughter,
Malia, will begin studying at Harvard University in 2017. Malia will join a long line of Presidents’
children who have studied at the elite group of universities. So what is the appeal of
an Ivy League education, and why are these schools so powerful? Well, the Ivy League is synonymous with elitism
and prestige, and its schools are generally regarded as some of the best in the world.
The origin of “Ivy League” is still a matter of debate, however one legend attributes
the name to the Roman Numeral “IV”, which represented the original four institutions.
Today, the official Ivy League encompasses eight private universities in the Northeast
United States. Although their reputations and rankings vary, Ivy League schools are
collectively known for having high tuition, demanding curriculum, slim acceptance rates,
and enormous financial endowments. Together, the eight schools’ endowments
add up to nearly $120 billion dollars. That’s roughly equal to the entire worth of the US
state of Arkansas. Harvard leads the pack by a large margin, reporting a nearly $40
billion dollar endowment in 2015. Of course, this only represents a university’s donated
assets, which excludes their property, tuition earnings, athletic income and the millions
of dollars they receive in federal and state grants. That means an Ivy League school’s
total worth is much, much higher than its publicly disclosed endowment. The majority
of their donations come from alumni. For instance at Princeton, nearly half of all graduates
eventually give back to the university. And, because the average mid-career salary for
Ivy League is more than $100,000, these contributions are often huge sums of money. What’s more, these institutions have a way
of holding on to their money, despite their seemingly high operating costs. They do this,
is part, by spending only about 5 percent of their annual endowment, investing the rest
right back into the school. And unlike other private institutions, their capital gains
go untaxed. But perhaps even more powerful than their
large endowment is their pool of influential alumni. Among them are powerful businesspeople
like Warren Buffet and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, as well as UN Secretary General Ban
Ki Moon and 15 US Presidents. Harvard alone has produced more than 150 nobel laureates,
more than any other American university. This is, in part, what makes an Ivy League degree
is so valuable. The Ivy League name implies a level of prestige that can lead to lucrative
or otherwise successful careers. In fact, the Department of Education reported that
the median annual income for Ivy League graduates after 10 years is more than double that of
grads from all other higher-ed institutions. But the benefits of an Ivy League degree are
not accessible to all, or even most Americans. Although these universities often describe
themselves as melting pots, nearly half of their students are white, and about the same
proportion come from families in the wealthiest four percent of Americans. While this is not,
in any sense, diverse, it’s still a vast improvement from the Ivy League’s long history
of homogeneity. For instance, many of these schools only started accepting women in the
last few decades, like Columbia which began in 1983. With the power to breed the next
generation of world leaders, the Ivy League is under more pressure than ever to reconsider
who they let in and, perhaps more importantly, who they leave out. Ivy League school or not, learning can be
incredibly hard — especially if you’re an overthinker. LEARN more about the science
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