I am off to a meeting today, where I will meet with an old professional friend who teaches at an Ivy League university. Also today, the first bill arrived for my daughter’s tuition at a prestigious Midwestern private university. My colleague has lots of time for travel, as he teaches, over the course of a year, about half of what those of us in state universities teach. But what struck me today was not sour grapes about teaching loads (I actually think teaching is important, and usually enjoy it—it’s the administrative BS of the state university that drives me up the wall). It was wondering how much of the outrageous sum I’m about to shell out is actually funding my daughter’s education, vs. paying professors at that university not to teach very much.

One thing I can say about my university—and many other state universities—is that while we do not have as many big-name academic superstars as some of the prestigious private schools, we do have some. And if your kid comes here, she or he has a reasonable shot of actually encountering them in the classroom. I wonder to what extent that is true in the Ivies and their peer institutions. I hope, for the sake of my daughter and my own consumer self-esteem, that my cynicism is misplaced.