Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Grinnell College Reunion 2008 and Some Economic Thoughts

So this past weekend was my college reunion. I’m six years out of undergraduate, but Grinnell College where I attended does their reunions with three graduating classes at a time so it was like 5 year reunion.

With my new position at Towson University, I have been thinking a lot about comparisons between Grinnell and Towson. The two schools are very different. Grinnell’s student population is less than 1/10 the size of Towson’s. Grinnell is located 1 hour between Iowa City and Des Moines in a town of about 10,000 people. Towson is located in Baltimore. Grinnell is private small liberal arts school with one of the largest per capita (student) endowments of any school in the US. Towson is public and generally dependent on state resources.

One other difference is the price tag Grinnell’s listed tuition is $35,000 a year, while in state at Towson it is $5,000. The Grinnell is misleading though since 90% of students are on financial aid and loans are capped at $2,000 per year.

In terms of outcomes for students. I believe the finding of Krueger and Dale that post graduate income isn’t really dependent on which school you attend, but incomes from different schools vary based on the quality of students who attend these schools. This relationship is well described in an Atlantic Monthly piece “Who needs Harvard?”

If you got to reading this far in this entry and you are not related to me, chances are you went to Grinnell. Most of the readers from this blog come through a Grinnell on line community. The thing that small liberal arts schools like Grinnell do best is foster social capital. But unlike the traditional social capital measured by Putnam or economists, I don’t think it translates into higher income. However, happiness research generally shows spending more times with friends makes you happier. Most of my closest college friends live a plane flight away now. But through Grinnell’s online community I have gotten a lot closer to people who were anywhere from on the fringes of my social circle to I didn’t even know their name at college.

Perhaps the US News and World Report needs a new way to rank colleges. I propose they add a category, percentage of alumni who maintain close friendships to people they met in college or through college networks post graduation. Also although it might be a can of worms, the percentage of alumni who are married/domestic partner with another alumni.

Being able to say yes to both I think tells you a lot more about a college than the percentage of alumni who give.

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Jennie said...

So the fact that, 6 years out, my social life is freakishly Grinnell-centric means that it's just because Grinnell rocked, not that I'm socially awkward? Because I'll buy that. :)

Seth Gitter said...

Yes, because I assume your Grinnell friends are better than the friends you would have had if you went to another school.

Which is clearly true.