Monday, June 08, 2009

College for Φ-landers

Megan commented on a study that shows that high performing schools are coasting on their demographics. A bunch of bloggers are commenting on this and other studies, one of which argues that many schools are engaging in winner-take-all education: focusing teaching resources on the top-performing colleges, grooming them for the Ivy League at the expense of students that perform well but aren't at the top.

It just so happens that our community paper (you know, those free, slender papers that accumulate unread on your front porch or driveway) published the college plans of this year's graduates from the high school in Φ's lily-white little burg.

It was interesting reading. First, nearly everyone will be attending college. Of our ~150 graduating seniors, we had one "undecided", and one student listed "U. S. Army" as his destination. We had maybe 10 students list the local community college (a well-regarded one by all accounts). Everyone else listed a four-year college.

But the high-end of the distribution . . . wasn't especially. Nobody listed a school in the Ivy League or a service academy. This year's valedictorian will be going to Northwestern. (Last year's valedictorian went to Harvard, I think.) Among the schools I recognized for their national reputations I saw Case Western, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and RPI. The vast majority, however, will be attending school in-state at either the U, the State-U, or one of the numerous private Catholic affiliated colleges. (Φ-ville is really, really RC that way.) These are good schools, but not in the U.S. News top-fifty, and not especially competitive. (For instance, they accept a majority of applicants.)

I expect that this reflects our family ambitions. Our median household income is $79k (against a median home value of $230k). A look at the distribution shows that we don't have an extraordinary number of super-wealthy parents likely to push their children toward Ivy-League schools. The families that choose to live here expect their children to attend college somewhere, but are content with what the in-state colleges offer. Our high school largely delivers on that expectation.

5 comments:

trumwill said...

My high school had a similar listing in the school paper, but it was self-reported and there were some pretty obvious inaccuracies ("There's no way that he got into the University of Delosa!"). I think that there were a dozen or so that were headed to the Ivies (or reported that they were). But my graduating class was roughly 800 people, so it was a really small proportion. Many self-reported to directional universities and a couple to trade schools. Our median household income is something like $90k and median household around $175k. I don't know what it was at the time, though.

Φ said...

Yeah, these are probably self-reported as well. Although I doubt we had much misrepresentation. (The Northwestern kid was the Salutatorian, for instance, and most of the schools listed were only moderately competitive.)

A home value to income ratio less than sounds extraordinarily low! What do you think it is about Delosa that keeps a damper on housing prices?

trumwill said...

We may be referencing different statistics here. Like the numbers I am thinking of include condominiums and the ones you are don't. I just did a quick glance and the listing price for houses seems to be about $700-1000 per square foot in the nicer part of town (excluding waterfront properties and huge houses), a little bit less where I was raised.

But insofar as we are on the same page, I think the answer is "Build, Build, Build!" The constant construction of new houses depresses the value of older houses. My folks' house (4bd,2bth, 2000-2500 sqft) was appraised at $150 last time it came up in conversation. It was worth $120 a decade before (in between which, $35k was spent enlarging it). It's actually the source of a lot of complaints. Except when it comes to property taxes, when the complaints go in the other direction.

Φ said...

My stats came from City-Data.com. I'm pretty sure it includes condos as well as houses (though Φ-ville doesn't have much in the way of condos that I know of).

$1000 per square foot!?! Are you sure you didn't add an extra zero? Most houses sell for around $100 per square foot, even in nice neighborhoods.

You're probably right about the effect of the building boom, although it doesn't always work like that. Unless, a neighborhood turns "black", then the newer houses usually bring longer commutes, less hospitable climate/terrain, less old-growth hardwood tree cover, etc. So often it balances out.

trumwill said...

Yeah, I added an extra 0.

According to City Data, the townlet I was raised in has an average income of $115k and the average home a whopping $239k. I think my previous numbers were significantly out of date. Anyway, the housing bubble apparently did reach Colosse more than I had realized... housing prices raised from $150k to $240k since 2000. So my folks's house is probably worth considerably more than it was last time we talked about it. Or, given the housing crash, maybe not :).

Housing values may be being suppressed by some specific circumstances. Great high school, but the middle school has a poor reputation. And there's the juvie hall. A larger town I've always considered comparable is 85k/206k. The town with the (less impressive) middle school I went to is 66k/175k. The wealthier part of the high school I went to can't be found because it's technically within Colosse city limits. The large, neighboring inner suburb (with some crime and pollution issues) is 52k/105k.

Man, I could look at these numbers all day!

I think that the suburbs of Colosse are a lot more self-sustaining than suburbs of other cities. I don't know anyone from my corner of the city that commutes to downtown. Judging by traffic a lot of people do it, of course, though some of that is people in situations like mine where people are travelling from one suburb to another.

The drive from my house to the university near downtown was about half an hour without traffic and almost never more than an hour. Also, a lot of the new development is "lateral" in distance. The drives are longer, but a lot of it is just getting out of the neighborhood! Once you're out, Colosse has a lot of routes from any one place to another so it's not like other places I've lived (and where I live now) where you're constricted to a route that everybody has to take.

Take away the roadography and decentrilization, and it's possible that housing would be a different story.

While commute times are not as much an issue, the newer houses have no trees and smaller yards (well, probably equally sized plots but with bigger houses), but people seem to love'em. I honestly don't get it. If I ever were to relocate that area, I'd definitely buy an older house.

(Any idea why I can't copy, paste, or use arrow keys in your comments?)