BYU Grads Get PhDs

August 16, 2006 | 44 comments
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Quite a few of them do, as highlighted in BYU News recently. I am not very impressed with the BYU News article, but the number is still good news to me.

The BYU News article is a bit goofy, actually. It compares the absolute number of undergrads from various schools who went on to receive PhDs between 1995 and 2004. In that period, 2,116 people with bachelor’s degres from BYU received PhDs. That puts BYU at number 10 for sheer number, just edging out, for example, MIT at 2,036. Of course, the article does not mention the huge disparity in total number of undergrads at these institutions. It highlights that “BYU came in ahead of universities such as MIT, Yale and Stanford,” but BYU (at 27,000) has four times as many undergraduates as Stanford (6,700), five times as many as Yale (5,300) and almost seven times as many as MIT (4,000). So, what the numbers actually indicate is that, for example, BYU grads are seven times less likely to get PhDs than MIT grads. If one is looking for an indication of the quality of undergraduate education, the number of PhDs per capita among BYU grads would be the number to compare.

Even correcting for institutional size, though, BYU compares reasonably well. It is a bit bizarre to compare BYU directly with MIT, or even Yale, given the differences in institutional goals and, say, the price tag. A more sensible comparison would be with big schools like UT-Austin (37,000 undergrads) or Berkeley (22,000 undergrads). While Berkeley grads turn out to be over twice as likely to get PhDs than BYU grads by these numbers, BYU grads are slightly more likely to get PhDs than UT-Austin grads, even though UT-Austin is generally perceived to be an academically more impressive place. For what it’s worth, UT is ranked #52 by U.S. News compared with BYU’s #71.

So while the BYU News article doesn’t do a good job of making the case, these numbers are in fact “hard evidence”, as John Tanner puts it, that BYU is succeeding in its key goal of providing a quality undergraduate education. The numbers may be even more impressive than they seem, given the difficulty of combining other goals BYU hopes its grads will have, with PhD work. I have learned from personal experience, and close observation, how challenging it can be to combine grad school with LDS goals of marriage and children. A still better measure of BYU’s success, by its own standards, would be the number of PhDs per capita who are married with at least one child, and I would bet that BYU blows away all competition on that score. It would also be interesting to know how many BYU grads go on to professional degrees; I suspect the ratio of professional degrees (MBA, JD, MD, etc.) to PhDs among BYU grads is much higher than at comparable institutions, because of the other life goals of BYU grads. For related reasons, whether this is good or bad, the BYU PhDs are surely far more weighted toward scientific and technical subjects than places like Yale, if not MIT.

The absolute number of PhDs is, of course, suggestive of BYU’s indirect impact on the learned world, which is a separate but not an insignificant matter.

PhDs are only one aspect of the overall picture of educational success. Ultimately, BYU should have its own concept of success which will be in significant part invisible by the standards of other institutions. But I am glad to see that despite its different goals, BYU is punching at roughly its weight in producing future PhDs.

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44 Responses to BYU Grads Get PhDs

  1. Ben H on August 16, 2006 at 10:22 pm

    The DesNews does discuss the relevance of size, and mentions surprisingly balanced ratios on discipline.

  2. Bryce I on August 16, 2006 at 11:03 pm

    A still better measure of BYU’s success, by its own standards, would be the number of PhDs per capita who are married with at least one child, and I would bet that BYU blows away all competition on that score.

    How about number of PhDs per capita who were married and had at least four children before graduating? Are there any non-BYU grads in that category?

    Having supported me through my own journey, my wife would argue that if BYU is producing relatively high numbers of PhDs, it is doing a disservice to its students.

  3. DHofmann on August 16, 2006 at 11:15 pm

    But how can you be guaranteed of a good education with all the grade inflation going on around the country? Perhaps it’s the schools putting out fewest PhD’s per capita that are giving the best education.

  4. Jim F. on August 16, 2006 at 11:32 pm

    DHofmann, I think you’ve confused several issues. Grade inflation is a problem, but since it is virtually universal, it doesn’t change the meaning we can infer about the number (absolute or per capita) of people who go on from an undergraduate education to get a Ph.D. And getting a Ph.D. isn’t a sign that you got the best education. It is a sign that you are deemed qualified by peers to teach in your field.

    A common reaction to getting a Ph.D. is amazement: “You mean there are people out there who know as little as I do and who have Ph.D.s! That was certainly my reaction, and I have heard others say similar things.

  5. Ben H on August 17, 2006 at 12:08 am

    Like Bryce, having obtained a PhD myself I know quite well that it is not for everyone. Though I wish I were not single, I am glad I didn’t put anyone through the unpleasant experience of being married to me while I was in grad school. It is probably a sign of good sense that more BYU grads go for professional degrees than PhDs, and in many cases quitting with a bachelor’s degree is itself a sign of good sense. Getting a PhD is a sign of not knowing when to stop at least as often as it is a sign of being well-educated or smart. That said, it is good for the rest of us that at least a certain number of people get PhDs, including a certain number of faithful Mormons. It is important for Mormon culture, including the health of BYU. I think we should do a better job of telling people what a tough road it is, but also a better job of supporting those who walk it. One way to do this would be to do a much better job of preparing them, earlier in life, so that they can finish graduate education that much sooner. BYU can’t start educating someone until about 18. By that time a lot of opportunities have already been missed.

  6. Ben H on August 17, 2006 at 12:12 am

    Bryce, I think I do know a non-BYU grad with four kids at the time of PhD, a guy who did his undergrad at Seattle U and his PhD at Notre Dame–a Catholic, of course. Very impressive, and an all-around wonderful guy. I know his wife was fatigued by it, but the amount of duct tape on the seat of his vintage mountain bike evidenced his efforts to mitigate his families’ hardship : )

  7. Buckeye the Elder on August 17, 2006 at 12:22 am

    based on anecdotal info here, an administrator at the Univ of Michigan told me that BYU is one of the “major” feeder school that sends a very large number of PhD, Law, Medical and Dental students to the graduate and professional schools at the Univ of Michigan every fall.
    When I joined the Church in 12/96, my first home teacher was a 2L at the Michigan Law School. Bro Hodgson told me that there were maybe a total of 15 active, inactive, single and married LDS students between the 3 classes at the Law School. In early may of 2005, I attended my Home-Teacher’s Law School raduation exercises, and it seemed that they had about 25 or 30 LDS students graduate in that one class alone. Seems that that likd of growth in the numbers of LDS students has been noticed in all other grad and professional schools at U-M.

  8. Jonathan Green on August 17, 2006 at 6:46 am

    Even the raw numbers tell you that there are a lot of very talented undergrads at BYU. One difference between BYU and the other institutions mentioned above is that BYU offers few Ph.D. programs, so very few of the BYU alumni/ae getting Ph.D.’s will be cases where people are sticking around the ol’ alma mater. People can snipe at the quality of education offered by BYU all they want, but you can’t get around the fact that BYU’s graduates apply to and are accepted by very competitive programs across the country in large numbers–and that they also finish those programs. Considering the attrition rate in a lot of programs, being able to stick it out is often more important that getting admitted in the first place.

    I realize I’m a piker who only had three kids by the time I finished, but I suspect that having a family often actually helps people finish their programs; you can’t spend time complaining to your fellow grad students over a beer about how much you hate your program if you’ve got to be home for dinner. Also, the couple years of maturity that BYU grads often gain from serving missions is not a small consideration, either. The people I know who stuck around and finished their degrees were often those with a bit more experience than just an undergraduate education.

    (There are grounds for complaining about BYU, and graduate education, and credentialism, and academia, and the severe and inequitably apportioned difficulties faced by women who aspire to both a Ph.D. and motherhood–but sometimes it’s good to just wallow in very positive news about BYU succeeding in its mission.)

  9. John Mansfield--one of the 2,116 on August 17, 2006 at 8:45 am

    This does seem like a basically good outcome. It is good to have some people pursue postgraduate education, but too many doing so would indicate the students feel their years of undergraduate education have left them unprepared to take on tasks outside academia.

  10. Rosalynde Welch on August 17, 2006 at 9:46 am

    Hey, who’d have thought that grad school would take abuse around T&S, of all places! I hate to say it to any overwhelmed ABD parent (and the beleaguered spouse), but grad school is about as cushy a place as you could find yourself right now. If you think graduate training is hard on a young family, you should try medical training. Actually, no, don’t try it—and ESPECIALLY don’t try it consecutively—just take my word. (What? I sound a little bitter? I’m typing with a great big smile on my face. Take my word on that one, too.)

    With this most recent baby, my husband and I joked that we finally have as many kids as we do advanced degrees: a PhD for each girl, and an MD for the boy. And nary a real salary in sight…

  11. queuno on August 17, 2006 at 10:06 am

    Anyone who still thinks that Hahvahd and Yale and Stanford and MIT are the bastions of undergraduate education had better open their eyes. Hahvahd is just a school with a well-known name. This week’s Time Magazine cover story does a great job of talking about how the Ivies have fallen.

    You take the top 3000 students at BYU and compare them heads-up against the entire Hahvahd student body, and BYU would compare very favorably.

    When you grill a Hahvahd graduate about anything related to Hahvahd, their ultimate trump card argument is “But … it’s Hahvahd! Look at our alumni network!” That’s it?

    [I'm not anti-Hahvahd. I have numerous family members who went to Hahvahd. I respect it immensely, but I don't drink the koolaid. My argument is that BYU should be considered in that top tier along with the Hahvahds.]

  12. Russell Arben Fox on August 17, 2006 at 10:15 am

    Following up on Ben H’s wise comment….

    I have never encouraged any student who hadn’t already made up their mind (and whom I couldn’t dissuade despite my best efforts) to go on to get their Ph.D. I loved my program, my wife actually liked being an aspiring academic’s spouse (and we had two children by the time it was over–as did another (non-LDS) family whose husband I knew through the program; we became close friends), and we handled the costs and strains relatively well. But academia is deeply dysfunctional for all but the lucky few, and American higher education (and American society as a whole) would be much better off if we could figure out better ways of identifing who those lucky few are, and encouraging those that aren’t to go into nursing.

    I realize this has nothing to do with BYU, Mormonism, family, or the grand purposes of education, and I realize Jonathan’s comment basically pre-empted anything I have said above. I just couldn’t resist, though.

  13. Christian Y. Cardall on August 17, 2006 at 10:41 am

    I felt that my undergraduate education at BYU prepared me quite well in comparison with my peers in graduate school from Princeton, Stanford, etc.

    Having had the experience of being single for two quarters of graduate school and married thereafter, I also think that having a wife (and as a husband with a stay-at-home wife, even a child) actually helped me better focus my attention and efficiently use my time—sort of like how tithing can help people to better financial health because of forcing better management.

  14. J. Stapley on August 17, 2006 at 11:21 am

    When I was department shopping for my PhD, several department heads (even Ivies) asked if I could send anymore BYU students their way.

    I loved graduate school and having a family at the same time wasn’t particularly that big of a deal. Like Christian, it was a great incentive to focus and manage time. I do recognize that it is a bit different in the sciences where the funding is typically a bit better and the whole concept of ABD is a bit foreign.

  15. Deborah on August 17, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    Any date of how many of those 2116 were women?

  16. Deborah on August 17, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    Ugh. That should read “data on.”

  17. Kristine Haglund Harris on August 17, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Allow me to be a little less subtle than Deborah. Guys!! Don’t say things like “having a family at the same time is no big deal”. Of course it isn’t if you have a spouse willing to deal with most of the family issues so that you can “balance” your work and school life by having 8 or ten hours to do school every day. It’s just a teensy-tiny bit different if you’re the one who has to deal with morningsickness while TAing (“today, kids, we’re going to learn all the German words for vomiting–excuse me for just a minute.”), duck out of seminars to nurse, deal with the staggering amount of bias against mothering among academics, try to sound reasonably intelligent after having gone 6 months without sleeping for more than 3 hours at a time, etc.

    Then again, after 4 years at a school with NO MATERNITY LEAVE POLICY and plenty of other impediments for women who would like to do anything but full-time parenting, it would be hard to imagine that many female BYU grads would even dream of trying to do grad school with families.

    Grrrr.

    /angry feminist mode off/

  18. Kool-Aid Drinker on August 17, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Queuno,

    While I agree with you in theory, I can’t agree with you in practice. While the top students at the Y have always been extremely comparable (and oftimes better) than students at Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, etc, the rest don’t generally cut the same mustard. And the top students at the Y are the ones going off to the elite grad schools and law schools, which is great. At the same time, with 26928 undergrad fulltime students (give or take), you don’t compete with the ivies that have between 5000 and 6000 fulltime undergrad students. So, if you are elite at the Y, you are in good shape. But the rest…I’m not so sure.

    Additionally, having reviewed hundreds of resumes for legal jobs over the past few years, I have to say that the Y’s undergrad programs have more massive grade inflation than a number of the other schools, including Princeton, Cornell, and some of the other ivies (Harvard’s grade inflation is just silly when you have around 90% of the students graduating with “honors”). By far, the Y has greater grade inflation than the U in both undergrad and law school. Something should be done to reign that in, because recruiters, judges, etc, are becoming much more aware of that and discounting high Y grades considerably.

  19. Christian Y. Cardall on August 17, 2006 at 12:57 pm

    Kristine, are you by chance talking to me (#13)? I think my comment made clear that having a child was not a difficulty primarily because my wife chose to stay at home and not take on other responsibilities. (I assume you respect her choice.) What should I have written differently?

  20. Rosalynde Welch on August 17, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    ITA, Kristine.

    Here’s my advice for grad-school mothering: have one kid after the bulk of your coursework is done, have another kid if you want after your dissertation is at least half done, but DON’T, under any circumstances, have a third kid. The third kid effectively destroys any sustained periods of concentration a mother has at home. When Jack was four months, I was able to start back on my dissertation in earnest, and had it finished by the time he was nine months. Mara is now four months, and there is not the remotest possibility that I could do anything like that now.

  21. Julie M. Smith on August 17, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    Rosalynde,

    I’ve never been a student mother, so anyone looking for advice should take this with a grain of salt, but I think distraction issues related to #3 have more to do with spacing than with the fact of having three children. My 1# would keep my #3 out of my hair and happily entertained all day if I would let him. Of course, he’s 6 years older than #3 and usually trying to avoid doing schoolwork and chores . . .

  22. Kristine Haglund Harris on August 17, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    Nope, Christian, you were the only one who even acknowledged the male privilege that dripped from the comment thread as a whole. I thought about thanking you for it, but forgot when I left the keyboard to (I kid you not!) take cookies out of the oven. Conflicted, anyone??

    Julie, would that we all had as much control over the spacing of our children as you apparently do. For some of us, biology is more messily intrusive. (Not to mention that some of us have less helpful 6-year-olds than yours!)

  23. J. Stapley on August 17, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    Kristine, agreed and your point is well taken. Though, frankly, I can’t speak from experiance, but if there was a stay at home dad, I think it would be no more different for a woman in grad school than to have any other sort of career. I’ll again acknowledge that I am speaking from a bias in the sciences. I don’t know about other fields.

  24. John Mansfield on August 17, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    The answer to Deborah’s question appears to exist in the report’s Table 2, but it costs $150. Maybe if you contact John Tanner, he’ll tell you.

  25. J. Stapley on August 17, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    That is to say that my original comment was speaking from the perspective of having one parent stay home. If both parents choose grad school or a career there I can’t think of any scenario that would be considered “no big deal.” It is simply more challenging to navigate the competing demands.

  26. Starfoxy on August 17, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    I’ve actually been meaning to try and get some discussion in a high profile spot (my personal blog is too out of the way to garner the response I think I’d need) about the nuts and bolts on attending grad school while being a stay at home mom. I very much want my masters (or at least to continue some sort of academic endeavors), and am sure we can afford it, but I have *no* real life mentors who have done anything remotely close to what I want to do (attend grad school while raising young children). In fact, I would be the first in my family to attend grad school at all.

  27. Rosalynde Welch on August 17, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    Starfoxy, I put up a post quite a while ago on that topic: http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2279

    Email me, too, if you want to talk more.

  28. Deborah on August 17, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    “The answer to Deborah’s question appears to exist in the report’s Table 2, but it costs $150. Maybe if you contact John Tanner, he’ll tell you.”

    Anybody have connections? I’d really love to know. . .

    Starfoxy: I am in the midst of a masters with my eyes on a doctorate — and planning on starting a family soon. Perhaps we can start an online support group (or move near each other and share the costs of a nanny!)

  29. Chris Grant on August 17, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    Kool-Aid Drinker:

    Among the hundreds of resumes you’ve reviewed, about how many were from BYU graduates and how many were from U of U graduates? And how did those sample resumes allow you to discern that grade inflation is worse at BYU than at the U of U?

  30. Chris Grant on August 17, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    While I’m waiting for Kool-Aid Drinker’s reply, let me share some numbers:

    Average GPA of Spring 2006 Baccalaureate degree recipients: BYU: 3.24, UofU: 3.24

    Average high school GPA of incoming freshmen: BYU: 3.75, UofU: 3.51

    The average UofU freshman has an ACT score of 24.

    An ACT score of 24 would rank in the bottom sixth of BYU freshmen.

    Maybe the U’s teachers are just so much better than the Y’s that their weaker students end up deserving equal grades.

  31. Jay S on August 17, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    Grade inflation may be a problem at BYU, but I wouldn’t think it is more of a problem with comparable institutions (ie large western undergrad instituttions such as U of A, U of W etc).

    Also, as far as law school grade inflation, I don’t see how this could really be. The grades are issued on a curve, so unless you are arguing that the median grade is too high, all grades are equal. Plus most LS grads are examined for their class rank, not the gpa.

  32. S. P. Bailey on August 17, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    Koolaid Drinker:
    You do hit on a significant truth. The elite schools are very kind indeed to the average students who manage to get in. Bottom third at Harvard law is surely better than anything outside the top ten percent at BYU law. This says a great deal more about reputation and alumni network than either quality of students or education.

    Your claim that “the Y has greater grade inflation than the U in … law school” struck me as odd. I am all too familiar with BYU law’s strict grading curve and the related cutthroat competition. In what sense are BYU law grades inflated? With all due respect, I think you are out to lunch. Which is where I’m headed right now anyway …

  33. Jim F. on August 17, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    Most of the discussion so far has ignored an additional problem in making the comparisons between BYU, the Ivies, etc., namely that BYU’s selection process is much less selective than some of the schools to which they are being compared. As a result, BYU probably admits approximately the same number of highly-qualified students and a lot more who are less-qualified. I can’t say what that would do to the comparisons except complicate them.

  34. Chris Grant on August 17, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    When you normalize the 16 listed schools according to undergraduate enrollment, BYU ends up in exactly the same spot it is in the unnormalized rankings: 11th place. If one looks at the normalized ranking of all schools, the rankings will be dominated by small, highly selective colleges. A weighted study for the period 1992-2001 had a top ten of Cal Tech, Harvey Mudd, Reed, Swarthmore, MIT, Carleton, Oberlin, Bryn Mawr, Chicago, and Yale (in that order).

  35. Ben H on August 17, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    Thanks, Chris, that is interesting. Of course, besides the ranking, it matters which schools we are saying BYU beat. And most of the schools you mentioned as leaders by normalized numbers don’t appear on the list in the article, so they and others like them would bump BYU down quite a ways in the overall list.

    Jim, of course you are right that BYU admits a wider range of students than some of the elite schools we have been comparing it with. One of the weird things about the way we usually compare schools is that we compare student achievements, but we don’t ask how much the students would have achieved if they had gone somewhere else. So it is usually not clear how much the school is actually doing to boost student achievement, or if they are just good at getting people to attend who would achieve a lot anyway. It would be really interesting to know how many students who would not have been admitted, or would not have had the cash to go to Yale or Swarthmore, go to BYU and then go on to top grad programs.

    On the gender issues I am a little anxious since this is my thread, but I think I may have escaped the brunt of Kristine’s criticism? Certainly when I said it is hard to combine family and grad school I had in mind women and men both. At Notre Dame though I knew perhaps four women in the PhD program who were married when they started, and three of them became mothers about the time they finished coursework, as per Rosalynde’s formula. I was impressed!

    I see two big differences between how hard it is to start a family while in grad school in humanities versus sciences. One is the money you get while in school (at ND friends in science seemed to get about 150% of my stipend from philosophy), and the other, bigger in my view, is the prospects after you finish. Yeah, having a family in grad school is easy if one parent stays home and you aren’t worried about money. But if you take on debt because the non-student stays with the kids rather than earning $, and then you really don’t know if you will get a job, let alone when . . . that strategy starts to seem very dicey! I think it is fair to say that PhDs in science, engineering, etc. can pretty well rest assured of a job that will pay the bills comfortably, and PhDs in humanities cannot.

    Rosalynde, how is this for a scenario: Husband gets philosophy PhD while wife is home with kids. After six years of this, he goes on the job market, comes up empty, and they realize if he tries again in a year and gets one, it probably will be somewhere they don’t want to live. They decide rather than keep fighting that battle, she will go to med school because by the time she is done, she will be much more employable (and the debt incurred for his schooling will presumably be dwarfed by hers). Med school as the improvised solution to a humanities track turned south! Yikes! Suddenly those pleasant years living the contemplative life in grad school start to seem a lot less cushy. For most people I knew, of course, the abort path was law school (much shorter), and many of them took it before finishing the degree, let alone spending a stressful year being disappointed on the job market. Less painful, but in order to avoid that, they came away without a PhD, or without having even tried to make a career of it. I’m elated, of course, that your experience was better!

  36. DKL on August 18, 2006 at 12:04 am

    Ben, you bring up an interesting point when you speculate about the numbers for professional degrees vs. PhDs. As someone here who has consistently denigrated the value of institutional/credentialed education, especially college education (professional licensing, for example, isn’t nearly so useless to society as the notion of a college degree), I see the trend toward more people getting PhDs as generally a bad thing.

    BYU does a reasonably good job of educating people. Why on earth can’t it convince them to do something other than fund PhD programs, most of which probably shouldn’t exist in the first place?

  37. Stew on August 18, 2006 at 9:27 am

    This is an interesting thread – I’m interested in the per capita numbers as well – BYU’s approximate 30,000 students every four years producing approximately 2500 Ph.Ds over ten years is impressive, but nothing compared to Harvard’s 6000 students every four years producing more than that. Of course, for the money, if I could guarantee that I am one of the top students at the Y and could get into the grad program that I wanted, then BYU can’t really be beat (especially if you get one of those nifty scholarships).

    What do ya’ll think about the US News rankings that just came out?

    And, as per Kool Aid Drinker’s post – I’ll actually second his discussion about the grade inflation. I work for a federal judge and have generally been stunned at the higher GPAs from Y law students than U law students – within the same percentile (I don’t know if the U law curve is just lower or what, but it is really interesting to view these resumes). We generally get around the top 50-60 resumes from both Y law and U law and the Y is generally more inflated. But, that might be purely anecdotal (of course, my judge comments on it every time we see it, and he has been a judge for quite a while).

    An aside for any law students – once you are in law school, don’t put your LSAT score on your resume, unless the employer or judge asks for it – no one wants to see that anymore and it is absolutely worthless to have it on there (and actually might ding you).

  38. Chris Grant on August 18, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Regarding law schools, this is what I’ve gleaned from the web:

    BYU’s median GPA is 3.3; Utah’s is 3.15.
    BYU’s median LSAT is 164; Utah’s is 160. (161 is the 25th percentile at BYU; 162 is the 75th percentile at Utah.)

    Thus, grades are higher at the Y, but their incoming students are also brighter.

  39. Kool-Aid Drinker on August 18, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    Chris,

    On the low-end, maybe, but on the high-end, definitely not. Having clerked with both Y and L grads, I can guarantee that the vast majority of incoming Y students are not, on average, “brighter” than their counterparts at the U. Anecdotally, that is definitely true – talking with profs who have taught at both places, they have said that both groups have been extremely comparable. And talking to one prof who taught at Yale, Columbia, and GW, who now teaches at the U law school – he states that the U students as a group acquitted themselves quite comparably with the students he taught at other schools. So before you start bashing U students as “not as bright,” get your facts a little bit straighter.

  40. Chris Grant on August 18, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    Kool-Aid Drinker:

    I’m not bashing Utah students. I was one myself (PhD, 1991). What I was doing was presenting the statistics that paint a different picture than your anecdotes. What stock should be placed in the anecdotes of anonymous Internet entities anyway?

  41. MDKI on August 18, 2006 at 10:30 pm

    I think this discussion can be pursued from two inter-related, although somewhat different, questions—Who has a higher quality of undergrads, the Ivies or BYU? And who provides a better undergraduate education?

    Of course both questions hinge on what “quality� means. If quality in the first question is defined in terms of GPAs, ACT scores, or other correlating factors that deal with the way we usually view intelligence, then I believe the answer is, “It’s about the same�. In other words, both places have a large number of intelligent people. But if we expand “quality� to refer to other capitals such as social capital, economic capital, and cultural capital, then I think the Ivies have us beat. And in some respects there’s only so much we can do to compete with that. In my experience the main difference between BYU undergrads (take even the most intelligent 20%) and Ivy undergrads is the amount of resources at their disposal. The mindset of most Ivy undergrads tends to be more global than those of BYU. I think this stems from the family environments they are often raised in—places where these other capitals tend to coincide with intellect.

    I’m not as interested in the second question, but I would merely point out here that much of the same theory applies. You can label the Ivies “smoke and mirrors�, but in the end you have to admit that there are benefits in going to the Ivies that extend beyond intellectual cultivation. Social capital is increased because of the perceived value of the Ivies, economic capital is increased (assuming you don’t rack up a massive debt, which is difficult to avoid) due to the higher earning potential by having an Ivy degree; and I’m going to have to say that cultural capital is increased as well by meeting some of the most interesting (and non-Mormon) minds in the world.

  42. mullingandmusing (m&m) on August 19, 2006 at 3:41 am

    My understanding is that a lot of what puts BYU grads in good competitive places after graduation is that undergrads get to participate in research and often publish as well. A good friend of mine is a prof there and is constantly including students in the work done. A couple of years ago, one of the students was wooed by Stanford, Harvard and one other biggie (Yale, maybe…can’t remember). Stanford practically begged this guy to come — and this was largely because he had been doing significant research and publishing — work that is often tied to graduate-level education and apparently is attractive to schools looking for well-prepared students. FWIW.

  43. Stew on August 19, 2006 at 10:08 am

    Even though I didn’t go to BYU, I’m a huge proponent of it. I was lucky in that I got Columbia to pay for my undergrad, and law firms to pay for my law degree (not at BYU). And I consistently believe that the top Y undergrad and Y law students are excellent. But I have not been impressed with the lower-tier Y undergrad and Y law students, whereas the quality doesn’t drop off as much for the “elite” schools. Of course, when you have 30k+ undergrad students at a place, the quality of those students has to drop off at some point.

    As per the U and Y – I’ve taught at the U law school and I’ve reviewed a lot of resumes from both schools – and worked with a lot of externs at both places – and I can’t find any qualitative difference. But, again, that is anecdotal (although Chris Grant hates anonymous internet identities from his previous post, so for the record my last name is Young).

    One issue I’ve seen, and I think both schools need to address, is the time it takes to graduate from both the Y and the U (undergrad). Of course, the mission skews things, but it is still generally taking a LOT of students five years of school to graduate, rather than four. That comes from raising a family, working full-time and so forth (I think the stats are worse at the U than the Y, especially because the U is known more as a commuter school), but I think both schools can definitely improve on this. How do we encourage students to graduate sooner, rather than staying in school longer? Any thoughts? This might be a dead posting by now, but it is something I know the U is definitely trying to work on and possibly something that the Y should be slightly concerned about as well.

  44. Jim F. on August 19, 2006 at 10:45 am

    As long as a significant portion of our young men go on missions, it is likely to take 5 years for many of them to graduate. Getting someone to concentrate on his studies when he knows he’s leaving town for two years isnt’ easy. Many don’t do well during their first two semesters and have to work to make up for that when they return. Contributing even more to the 5-year average, however, is probably the fact that so many change their majors after going on missions. That usually adds at least a semester to their time to graduation, and if it adds one, it almost always adds two since most recruitment and entrance to professional or graduate school is timed for Spring graduation.

    If the average time to graduation ran more than 10 semesters I would be concerned, but when it is less, I don’t think there’s much anyone can do.