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Where Do Rich and Famous People Get Their College Education?

I recently read an article about a study of postsecondary education in America and whether it mattered where one gained a university education. Research was done on whether it was better to attend a private university, or whether public institutions prepared a person for life after graduation just as well.

That’s an important question, since public universities are much cheaper to attend than private postsecondary schools. Higher education is expensive in any case, but if you can get out cheaper and have just as good of an education, that would be important information to know. Those students loans which present many graduates with crippling debt some 9 months after their education ends are something to avoid, if possible.

Getting a College Education Is Worth It

Ivy League Students

Rich and Famous People Take Many Paths to Success, But College Is Still a Good Bet.

Before I continue, let me say it’s always worth getting a higher education. Studies have repeatedly shown that those who get their bachelors degree stand to earn over $1,000,000 in their lifetime than those who get a high school degree and end their formal education.

Each step up the educational ladder is another step up the financial and socio-economic ladder.

That is, if you don’t graduate high school, you’re worse off than someone with a GED or HS diploma.

If you attend some college courses, you’re likely to  be better off economically than someone who goes straight into the workforce. If you have a bachelor’s degree or a technical equivalent, you’re better off than a university dropout. Those with a master’s do better still, while those with a doctorate do best of all. It pays to have a college education, but does it pay for that diploma to be from a private institution?

Studies Show Confusing Statistics

A conclusion based on the studies is difficult to ascertain with any degree of certainty. Researchers have conducted studies and shown that the higher standards and pay rates at private schools, especially Ivy League universities, tend to justify the expenses. Social scientists and educators have found flaws in this methodology, showing that these studies were biased by the fact the students being studies entered with different academic achievements and social status, thus the private school attendees were more likely to get ahead post-graduation.

Research Indicates Little Difference

Perhaps the most scientific study was done by the National Bureau of Economic Research. This organization compared students with private collegiate diplomas against those who were accepted to private institutions, but choose to attend public institutions and attain one of these degrees instead. In this study comparing similarly bright and high attaining scholars, the difference was virtually nonexistent. Neither group made any appreciable amount of difference in pay.

The only group the stats deviated were those from lower economic classes. In this case, a slight increase was seen in those who attended private schools. This was assumed to be from better social networking–that is, the ability to network with people from a higher social and economic strata. Professions and careers are often as much about who you know as what you know, so the private institutions do provide an opportunity to meet other exceptional people–or those who know exceptionally well-connected persons.

Public School Attendees – Universities for Successful People

The point being, if you’re bright or brilliant and have the energy and discipline to college a university degree, it probably doesn’t matter whether you matriculate from those excellent Ivy League schools or your alma mater is nice state scholastic setting. Get the shingle and move on to a career. Unless you get full financial aid or you really need to meet a network of post-graduation friends, contacts, and business partners, you’re probably better off saving on the student loans and just attending a good public institution. To give you some small indication of what’s possible taking this path, here’s a far-from comprehensive list of rich, famous, and successful people who attended public postsecondary campuses.

  • Warren Buffet – Nebraska
  • Earl Warren – California at Berkeley (Chief Justice of the United State Supreme Court)
  • Steve Wozniak – California at Berkeley (Apple Computer Co-Founder)
  • Haakon Magnus – Cal-Berkeley (Crown Prince of Norway)
  • Ken Thompson – Cal-Berkeley (Bell Labs, Developer of Unix)
  • Eduardo Castro-Wright – Texas A&M (Wal-Mart CEO)
  • Khalid A. Al-Falih – Texas A&M (Saudi Aramco CEO)
  • Amir Ansari – George Washington (Venture Capitalist)
  • David Letterman – Ball State
  • Tom Brokaw – Iowa U (NBC News)
  • George Gallup – Iowa U (Gallup Public Opinion Poll)
  • Oprah Winfrey – Tennessee State
  • David Gardner – North Carolina (Motley Fool)
  • Jim Goodnight – North Carolina State (SAS Institute)
  • Katie Couric – Virginia
  • Steven Spielberg – California State College
  • Don Bitzer – North Carolina State (Plasma Television)
  • Abdullah al-Tariki – Texas at Austin (OPEC Co-Founder)
  • Rex Tillseron – Texas at Austin (ExxonMobile CEO)
  • Red McCombs – Texas at Austin (Clear Channel, San Antonoio Spurs, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Nuggets)
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson – UT (Astrophysicist, NOVA scienceNOW on PBS)
  • Stephen King – Maine
  • Neil Armstrong – University of Southern California
  • Henry Caruso – USC (Dollar Rent-A-Car)
  • Yang Ho Cho – USC (Korean Airlines)
  • Chris DeWolfe – USC (MySpace Co-Founder)
  • Andrew Viterbi – USC (Qualcomm Co-Founder)
  • William Wang – USC (Vizio Founder)
  • Henry Samueli – University of California at Los Angeles (Broadcom Corporation)
  • Vint Cerf – UCLA (Co-Father of the Internet)
  • Robert Kahn – City University of New York (TCP, IP, Co-Father of the Internet)
  • Colin Powell – City College of New York

Private School Attendees

Plenty of people have succeeded at high levels by attending the elite private higher education schools. The point being, you’ll find successful people from all fields starting in many different places. What we’re talking about are averages, demographics, and statistics. Who know what your case is likely to be?

If one thing can be said, it’s that the people I kept finding on this list were in careers where education was often only part of the picture. Making friends and potential connections was just as important. Notice how many politicians attended prestigious establishments and institutes. If you want a career in public service, you might want to start at an Ivy League school.

Of course, this might indicate that many of these people studies law, because these are some of the best law academies in the USA. Legal expertise and medical expertise at the highest level is still the best assurance you’ll have a top-level salary after graduation. There are no promises, though.

  • George W. Bush – Yale
  • George H.W. Bush – Yale
  • Steve Jobs – Reed College (Apple Co-Founder)
  • Steven Balmer – Harvard
  • Condoleezza Rice – University of Denver
  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg – Cornell (US Supreme Court)
  • Tom Gardner – Brown (Motley Fool)
  • Carly Fiorino – Stanford
  • Tiger Woods – Stanford
  • Barack Obama – Harvard
  • Bill Clinton – Harvard
  • Richard Nixon – Whittier College/Duke University

Entrepreneurs Who Didn’t Need Postsecondary Education

That isn’t to say that some people didn’t need much education at all. This isn’t suggested, but this is a list of entrepreneurs and successful people who either dropped out of college to pursue their dream or never attended in the first place. Notice that many of the people on this list are from several generations before, when technical know-how and advanced training weren’t always as important (though Ford was a mechanical engineer).

Also, notice that many of these people attended Ivy League institutions, but decided to leave their campuses to pursue their business goals. These people weren’t your normal college dropouts and slackers, though. Most of them had amazing energy and guts to pursue their ambitions–an almost insane drive to succeed. No matter where your career starts, you need drive, ambition, and specialized knowledge to separate yourself from others. The world is more technical know than ever, so you need a plan.

  • Michael Dell – Dell Inc.
  • Richard Branson – Virgin Megastore, Virgin Atlantis Airway
  • Simon Cowell – American Idol, Sony BMG UK
  • Henry Ford – Ford Motor Company
  • Bill Gates – Microsoft Corporation (Dropped out of Harvard, Sophomore Year)
  • Paul Allen – Microsoft Corporation (Dropped out of Washington State, Soph)
  • Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook (Dropout in Year 2)
  • Milton Herschey – Herschey’s Milk Chocolate (4th grade Education)
  • Rachael Ray – Food Network
  • Ty Warner – Ty Inc. (Beanie Babies)
  • Frank Lloyd Wright – Architect
  • Coco Chanel – Chanel Fashion House
  • Barry Diller – Fox Broadcasting, Expedia
  • Walt Disney – The Walt Disney Company
  • Debbie Fields – Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery
  • Woody Allen – NYU/City College of New York
  • Paul Thomas Anderson – New York University (2 days), Emerson College (2 semesters)
  • John Jacob Astor – America’s First Multimillionaire
  • Brooke Astor – Socialist, Philanthropist, Author

Academics Is Important

Once again, pursuing some many of academic degree is what’s most important. Whether you go to a state school or one maintained by private funding is up to you, but you need a postsecondary, technical, or professional degree of some sort. This open doors into a wider world of earning. Not only will you have more earning power in the life ahead of you, but you’ll learn the value of hard work, intense study, and critical thinking. Meet people and network among students, alumni, staff, and faculty while you’re on campus. Make an impression with your professors and make friends in the dorm, in clubs, and in your major coursework. But learn how to be a competent professional through dedication and knowledge in your chosen field of expertise and you’ll never lack for opportunities.

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