When I talk to California teenagers who are interested in attending college outside of the state, their preferred destination is usually the East Coast.
As a native Midwesterner it is disheartening that so many Californian teenagers dismiss so much of the country as simply real estate that makes flights from California to New York or Boston way too long.
While teens think they want to attend school in Boston or some tony East Coast community, I wonder if many of them would be happy if they did get their wish.
I’ve been mulling this over for quite some time, but I decided to write about my reservations because of a conversation that I had last night with a friend of mine. My friend’s daughter, who used to date my son in high school in San Diego, is a freshman at a very selective liberal arts college in Massachusetts.
In Your Face Wealth
Julia loves her professors and she likes her small classes. What the teenager, however, was unprepared for was the tremendous wealth of many of the students at the school.
Julia’s parents are well off. They live in a large house with a killer view of the San Diego downtown skyline, but Julia was stunned by the in-your-face wealth of many of the students. When she and some other classmates went to a Boston mall, for example, she went shopping at Forever 21, a popular discount clothing store for teens, and her classmates headed to Lord & Taylor. Her roommate wears Tiffany jewelry and the girls prefer Coach bags that can cost $400 or $500 a piece. These kids are tooling around in Mercedes and other expensive wheels.
California Universities vs. East Coast Schools
It’s not that there aren’t wealthy kids in California, but there doesn’t seem to be such a heavy concentration of them in any one place. The vast majority of teenagers in California, as well as in most states, attend public universities where there is a mix of students from different socio-economic backgrounds. At UCLA and UC Berkeley, for example, 25% and 26% of undergraduates qualify for a Pell Grant, which is awarded to low and low-middle income families. In contrast, a measly 9% of Princeton undergrads receive Pell Grants.
Out here in California — and once again in most of the rest of the country — we don’t have a tradition of boarding schools, eating clubs, secret societies and the other trappings of wealth that keep the rich segregated from most Americans.
I’m wondering what other people think about attending the private East Coast colleges and universities which serve as magnets to the ultra wealthy? Would your children want to be surrounded by these pampered students? I know mine wouldn’t.