Jan 12, 2020 • 25M

Are elite universities unsustainable or unstoppable?

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Nick Barr
A podcast in which we discuss things that interest me, your host, Nick Barr!
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I thought that elite universities like Harvard made their money from high tuitions. I was wrong! Harvard and other top schools actually lose money on students – they spend $150,000 per student a year on core academics alone.

The business model of elite universities actually binds them to wealthy students more than simply being expensive would. I’m not sure whether this pattern is a positive feedback loop, spiraling out of control and into absurdity, or whether it’s concerning but fixable.

I’m also not sure whether a focus on elite universities is a distraction, because their students represent less than 1% of college-goers, or necessary, because those students are disproportionately wealthy and powerful.


Now I want to…

  • learn more about the business models at elite vs non-elite universities

  • figure out whether elite universities could admit significantly poorer students without breaking their business model

  • decide whether focusing on elite universities is constructive or a distraction