Is an Ivy League Education Worth the Price?

Is an Ivy League education worth the price?

The benefits of an Ivy League education compared to other universities has been a debate for some time. I wanted to see if I could uncover the facts to decide for one side or the other. Is an Ivy League education worth the price? The studies, evidence, and facts seem inconclusive, to say the least with one side being better than the other. However, there is some irrefutable evidence that seems to be a commonality among studies on the subject of getting an elite education.

The question always seems to come up, “Do Ivy League graduates earn more money compared to other university graduates?”

The Ivy League

Admission to an Ivy League college is a dream for a lot of students. But the costs are certainly alarming for a middle-class student that might have the academics to get accepted. Tuition alone to an Ivy university can run $40,000 to $50,000 per year. With the high cost of attending an Ivy League college, why do people decide to attend?

For some students and families getting into a prestigious school is good for social status. Just look at the recent college admission scandals on the news with wealthy prominent families paying to get their kids into certain universities. If a student already comes from a wealthy family, why would they need the advantage of a prestigious college? The family likely already has the money and connections to make their child a success or at least give them every advantage. The reason is a popular school is nice to say at parties and social gatherings.

The other reason many people want to get into an Ivy League school is that they believe it will lead to riches after graduation. Although this is a belief in much of society, I did not find hard evidence to it actually being the case in every circumstance for each Ivy school graduate on average.

Ivy League Earnings 

With the low acceptance rates for Ivy League universities and the high investment cost, you would think there should automatically be a good return on the investment. Just the acceptance should make it pay off. Take a look at Harvard for example. The 2019 overall acceptance rate is at just 5.3% with over 37,000 applications submitted, according to Because it is so challenging to get into Harvard, shouldn’t it pay off in earnings for everyone that gets in? You would think so, but it doesn’t work this way for every accepted student.

The average early career salaries for Ivy League graduates in a study reported by the statistics site,, showed that graduates from Princeton had an average yearly salary of $75,200 U.S. dollars, while Brown University the average was $68,200 U.S. dollars. Not bad, but what if a student earning these figures took out 80k or more in student loans to earn that Ivy diploma?

Even though average early earnings might not appear too bad for an Ivy school graduate, there are other colleges with higher-paying earnings and return on investment. came out with a list of the highest paying bachelor degrees. Would you be surprised to learn that a major Ivy League university was not at the top of the list?

Colleges with the highest paying bachelor's degrees

Advantages of an Ivy League education

Although there is no real evidence that Ivy League graduates are guaranteed to earn more money compared to public school graduates, I did find in my research several advantages of an Ivy education that possibly increases the odds of better earnings. Again, it is not guaranteed. But there were some commonalities that seem to provide an edge.

If you are going into these careers….

There is no doubt that certain careers might have an edge in the hiring process with an Ivy League education. This opens the opportunity to earn a lot of money in a lifetime.

If you are thinking about starting the next Facebook or Microsoft, an Ivy League degree could come in handy and look quite good. Investors might like the fact that you attended an Ivy institution. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

Running for a government office and getting into a high level of politics an Ivy League education can be an advantage. Think of all the politicians and lawyers that went to an Ivy League university. For some levels of government attending an elite college almost seems to be a requirement.

Politics and starting the next big thing are not the only areas an Ivy League education can be an advantage. If you have a determination to make a career in investment banking or management consulting, then an Ivy League degree could come in handy.

Financial aid

Believe it or not, a lot of students that get into an Ivy League school don’t come from wealthy families and they receive financial aid. If you are a student that can get full financial aid for going to a big-name school, then why not take advantage of it regardless if higher earnings are not guaranteed?

Employers and an Ivy League education

There is no denying that someone looking at a resume might take a second glance when they see an elite university listed. This comes back to the social beliefs of an Ivy League education. Some people believe a person might be more intelligent for attending a prestigious school. This might or might not be the case. There are also employers that see an alumnus from an Ivy League school as being at the very top of the competition. This can be the case with the difficulty of being accepted into an Ivy school.

The truth is some employers look favorably on education from an Ivy university. I even know of a guy that used this to his advantage for his entire career so far. He isn’t the best performer and an employer usually discovers this in time. He then moves on to the next job with his education getting him in the door.

You would think employers would not just look at an Ivy League education and believe the person will be the best and most intelligent employee, yet several hiring managers still do. It is not a guarantee, but from this standpoint, an Ivy League education could hold an edge with a potential employer.

Alumni and networking are the real advantages

Ivy League universities have a rich history and a large network of powerful successful alumni in most cases. This is where the true advantage lies in attending an elite school and getting to the big earnings most expect of an Ivy League college graduate. The professors and alumni available at Ivy League colleges are not for the most part accessible to people on the outside. The career development and networking opportunities are the keys to financial success and not just having the elite school name on a diploma.

Without taking advantage of the networking opportunities available while attending a big-name school, it might just limit the earning potential once a student graduates. Again, there are no guarantees, but meeting the right person or people can certainly improve the odds with a degree from an elite school and earning big money.

With the advantages, how does an Ivy League diploma not earn more every time compared to degrees earned from other schools?

It would make sense with the advantages listed above that just about every Ivy League school graduate should earn more money compared to other universities. Yet, this just isn’t the case in the research I was able to find.

The closest information on the subject comparing Ivy League University earnings and other schools that seemed to be accurate was a study by Investopedia. It found that holders of an Ivy League degree do for the most part indeed earn more money compared to other university graduates. However, when the cost of education is taken into consideration public school college grads appeared to come out ahead. The study took into account a number of variables, such as future cash flow, tuition and fees.

The big factor that made a difference in earnings between Ivy schools and other universities seems to be when student debt is accumulated. Ivy League school graduates seemed to earn more on average, but the ones that have loans have much more in debt compared to degrees from public schools. Thus, elite graduates might earn more. But the ones that have student debt have more of it and as a result, earn less when servicing the student debt is taken into consideration.

Are there negatives of going to an Ivy League school?

Trying to figure out if there are negatives for attending an Ivy school is a little easier than one might think. Most people only look at the positives thinking earnings being a major plus with an Ivy university graduate.

What can be the negative side of an Ivy League school?


I did not attend a prestigious college, but the research for this article I did do pointed out that students who attend elite schools are majorly stressed out. Partly because they are so competitive, but it might also be because of the cost for some. Failing is not an option for most students of an Ivy League and major stress is a result of all the pressure.


Because the cost of attending an Ivy League University is so high, it is a certain negative in many instances for people that have to accumulate major debt to graduate.

The truth is from an education perspective Ivy League schools mostly do not offer much more in the quality of education compared to other schools. Although some might argue with this, the things being taught at college are not something that can’t be found in the public library or on the internet these days if you know where to look. College is many times the price to pay for possibly landing a better career and paying job for many college majors.

Paying double or triple the cost for an Ivy League education compared to a public school is not going to make someone more intelligent.

Employers not wanting to hire based on an Ivy League education

Just like employers that look favorably on someone that went to an Ivy League school, there are some that might not look at it as a positive.

Are there employers that might not hire a person with an Ivy League education?

I know some readers might not agree with this but a lot of students that go to an elite school do come from wealthy families or upper-class ones at the very least. An article by Forbes stated that 45.6% of the undergrads at Harvard come from families with incomes above $200,000. This would be just 3.8% of American households that fall into this income range.

Certainly, coming from a wealthy background does not automatically equate to a person that is just a rich kid that has no idea about how real life is lived by the majority of people. However, there might be some debate that it could increase the chances of an Ivy League graduate being somewhat out of touch with reality.

Some employers might not hire a graduate from an elite school for the very fact they might believe someone with an Ivy League diploma might have a challenging time putting themselves in the shoes of a day to day employee. Also, a potential employer could even think someone from an Ivy university would not make a good leader because others would not be able to relate.

The other negative with a potential employer might just be the opposite of what this article is completely about. There is a possibility a hiring manager might not reach out to an Ivy graduate because of the often-expected higher salary for graduating from a big-name school. While some companies still look quite favorably on Ivy schools, many employers and companies are trying to cut costs and get the best candidate with the most experience for the least expensive price. Someone from an elite expensive school might be overlooked just due to the fact of an expectation for higher pay.

What did I find as the conclusion to Ivy League graduates earning more money compared to a less expensive public college?

The evidence and statistics leading to concrete information on an Ivy League graduate earning more money compared to other schools are mixed, to say the least. One big factor that did seem to make some difference is when an Ivy League student had to take out large amounts of student debt for their education.

When a public university undergrad diploma and one from an Ivy League are compared with student loan debt, the public school is definitely a better return on investment. The issue is I don’t think this is just for Ivy League schools. Any time someone can get through school with no debt it likely increases the chances for financial success overall. Student loans are a bigger gamble than they ever have been. The gamble can just be even larger with a mountain of debt in loans from an Ivy League school because the debt is much larger and the time to pay the money back is much longer for most people compared to a less expensive university.

Who probably benefits most from an Ivy League school?

First and foremost, the students that have the most to gain from an Ivy school are the ones that get through it with no debt. This can especially be the case for students that come from lower-income families. If these students take advantage of the networking and social opportunities correctly, it can change their family for generations.

Students that have the most to gain from an Ivy League school are often the ones that graduate with no debt.

The wealthy families that send their children to prestigious universities are also probably the most likely to benefit. This is because their kids will leave school with no debt and they already have good connections and opportunities most likely available to them.

The bottom line…

Is an Ivy League education worth the money? If you are looking to earn more money as a sure thing due to attending an elite school, the answer is probably no in most instances. Yet, given the right networking and contacts with the Ivy League experience and it might pay off. However, this is true with just about any college a person attends. There are very successful people from quite a few public state schools and they all have opportunities to make the social aspect of college hopefully be an investment that will pay off as well.

The financial success of someone is most times determined by the person and not the school they attended. There is some argument that the students from wealthy families have an edge and this is likely true. But for everyone else, an Ivy League degree likely won’t be worth the price if it equals decades of debt after graduation.

What do you think of the Ivy League debate on career earnings? Leave a comment below on your thoughts.


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