The Ivies are Losing Their Edge, But We May Have Another Option

For high school students in New York, it may be time to stop fixating on the Ivy League and start researching to look at other options.

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If you ask a child where they want to go to college, they will likely mention an Ivy League university. Attending an Ivy League school has always been the crown jewel of any student’s ambitions—these select schools are viewed in a light that remains incomparable to other educational institutions. The Ivy “brand” is universal, with people wearing merchandise and gear from Ivy League schools even if they have not attended. However, while many students have their sights set on attending Ivy League schools, the likelihood of admission as well as the internal stability and brand of these institutions are on a precipice. Students should begin to weigh their options much more carefully and think hard before deciding to apply—especially early decision—to an Ivy League school. There are better alternatives that come without many of the drawbacks.

Ivy League schools have historically been among the most selective and prestigious in the world, where the best students from both the U.S. and abroad apply. However, it has recently been increasingly difficult to gain admission to these universities. With test-optional admissions on the rise, students with high grades and low test scores are applying in greater numbers—a previously uncommon event. As a result, admission rates have considerably decreased. Even so, Ivies are more than twice as likely to accept rich students compared to those from lower or middle classes, creating a disincentive for students in lower socioeconomic classes to apply. 

A study of elite colleges from July 2023 shows that the richest 0.1 percent of students in America were over 2.2 times more likely to be admitted to elite colleges compared to the average student. There is also a major dip in admissions among the middle and upper-middle class, who are less likely to be admitted to an elite school than any other economic group with similar test scores, including the poorest groups. This is because the upper-middle class is not wealthy enough to donate serious sums of money to their school as alumni, but they’re also not in the group of people sought out by colleges to increase racially and economically diverse acceptances. This creates a U-curve in admission rates. On top of this, legacy students are often given a huge edge when it comes to admissions to top colleges. While legacy students are judged as slightly more qualified for competitive schools, they can also be more than three times as likely as non-legacy students to gain admission to a top 12 university. This results in a sense of despair among somewhat well-off parents and students in the race to the top.

Ivy League schools are also becoming extremely expensive. College prices are drastically rising all over the country, and Ivies lead this pack. However, while many institutions offer merit-based and need-based scholarships, Ivy League schools only offer need-based aid, making it far more difficult to achieve a cut in tuition costs.

As Ivy League admission rates decline and the application system continues to favor rich students, other schools are stepping up into the limelight. In June 2023, Stony Brook University, the State University of New York (SUNY) in Stony Brook, received a $500 million donation from the Simons family, founders of a philanthropic organization for math and sciences research. SUNYs are high-admission-rate schools currently climbing the prestige ladder. Binghamton University recently rose from #83 to #73 in national rankings and became the top public university in New York. 

State schools and public schools are a cheaper alternative to the Ivies—they cost an average of 20 percent less than private institutions. For students outside New York, there are very prestigious public universities, such as the University of California schools that have multiple schools among the top 30 universities nationwide. They are a great financial option for students from California and still have better financial and academic benefits for out-of-state students. Overall, for New York students, SUNYs and CUNYs are great options. They are an affordable and higher acceptance rate alternative that can still offer an excellent education for all students. 

Students at Stuy often consider SUNY and CUNY schools as safety schools that are nowhere near the top of the list, but these schools need to be put much higher on a hierarchy of options. They offer prestigious education programs and boast of a variety of clubs, organizations, sports, and countless other major opportunities. It may be time to stop fixating on the Ivy League and start researching other options.