Thursday, June 11, 2009

Off-center advice for graduates

Yesterday David Brooks and Gail Collins engaged in a very insightful back-and-forth about useful advice for high school graduates. Brooks wonders why Oprah and Dr. Phil seem to have cornered the market on information regarding how to meet "life's vital needs." I'd add another name to the list, Suze Orman, although I'm not sure that stable personal finances are quite the same provider of happiness as marriage and friendships. But they certainly require impulse control, which Brooks and Collins also talk about. And I'm sure that unstable personal finances are a source of unhappiness.

Collins seems to take aim squarely at the drive to get into expensive, prestigious colleges. I absolutely agree that circumspection is required; research shows, that earnings outcomes aren't appreciably better at a more prestigious college given a fixed quality of applicant. If that is true, then it follows that it isn't worth taking on student loan debt just for the privilege of attending a more prestigious university.