Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

What was your reaction when you learned about the scandal involving wealthy parents spending obscene money to secure their child’s admission into an elite university? Were you outraged that this was so unfair, especially if you have a child nearing college age? Perhaps you saw this as another example of the arrogance of the affluent.

My response was despite their wealth these folks are stupid, since these elite universities really do not offer a better undergraduate education, so why spend the money? Yes, Harvard, Yale and Stanford are fine colleges to obtain graduate or professional degrees, but my experience indicates for undergraduates there are much better schools.

What gives me the right to make this statement? For many years during my teaching career, I taught and coached at various high schools and became involved in hundreds of college searches. I generally followed up with my students to get feedback about their college experiences. Of greater importance, from 1985 through 1998, I conducted summer teacher workshops on college campuses from Boston to Honolulu. At each college, I would search out students and faculty to gain an assessment of that school as a possible college for my high school students.

During the summer of 1987, I conducted a workshop at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. My contacts with students and faculty demonstrated that TU offers a fabulous undergraduate environment. Upon my recommendation, five of my former students received degrees from TU. One is a Slavic linguist for the Defense Language Institute, one leads a city’s drama program, one is a urologist, one holds two doctorate degrees and is a professor at The Sorbonne in Paris, and the fifth is a bilingual economist working for a nonprofit. All reported great academic and social experiences at this college.

Based on my research, I can recommend several private universities in lieu of elite schools. Emory and Agnes Scott (Decatur, Georgia), Furman (Greenville, South Carolina) Davidson (Davidson, North Carolina), Rice (Houston, Texas) and Harvey Mudd (Claremont, California). Some state universities I recommend are Georgia Tech (Atlanta), Clemson (Clemson, South Carolina), University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia), Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Virginia), Auburn (Auburn, Alabama) and Texas A&M (College Station, Texas) These are not the only quality colleges out there; they are ones which I have the most familiarity.

I did not mention in-state schools since I always prefer students go out-of-state if at all possible. Staying in Arizona, U of A, ASU and NAU each offers exceptional academic programs.

If you are experiencing or approaching the college search, please disregard the elites and focus on a school that meets your child’s needs.

Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has 44 years of experience teaching mathematics. He is in his fourth year as a volunteer at Butterfield E.S.


This column appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

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