Ranking the Ivies by the Only Measure That Matters: Caprice

WSJ yale vs harvardYale and Harvard and Princeton, oh my! They have so much money, each of the Ivy League schools. How much money? Enough to sink a ship, or to launch one. And, according to the WSJ, some of them handle that money better than others.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Yale University earned a return of 20.2% on its endowment, easily topping the 15.4% gain reported by Harvard University. Yale’s performance was the best among the eight Ivy League schools, while Harvard’s was the worst. The rout was the fourth victory in a row over Harvard for David Swensen, who manages Yale’s $23.9 billion endowment, and his eighth in the past decade, according to data compiled by Charles A. Skorina & Co., a university-endowment recruiting firm. Yale now has nearly twice the number of investment wins over the past three decades as its Massachusetts rival, though Harvard’s endowment remains the largest among U.S. universities, at $36.4 billion.

Good job, bulldogs! But how do the Ivies stand in the popular imagination? Forget how rich they are; how warmly do we feel toward them? What’s their Q rating? If we can arbitrarily and capriciously rank New England states, surely we can do the same for the Elite Eight New England/Mid-Atlantic universities, right? Right!

8. Princeton. Sorry, tigers. For starters, you’re in New Jersey, which is one of the only eastern states worse than Connecticut. You’re basically synonymous with “stuffy” in the popular imagination, to the degree that the clueless, buttoned-up main character from Avenue Q is named after you. When I visited, the cold grey stone everywhere was a turn off, and all the tour guide talked about was how much better you were than Yale and Harvard. Do you know what Yale and Harvard tour guides talked about? Not you.

Also, ugh, Joyce Carol Oates, enough.

7. Dartmouth. Like Princeton, only smaller, and in the middle of nowhere. You may be preppy and unsympathetic but you get points for toughing out those freezing New Hampshire winters and for producing Mindy Kaling.

6. Cornell. Endless, depressing winters, too much drinking, and an inferiority complex. Attractive! You have a great creative writing department, I hear, though, and your gorges are indeed lovely.

5. Penn. I took a class at Penn once. The teacher hit on me and tried to make me read his screenplay. I’ve also seen good theater there, and I have a soft spot for it because it was my neighbor. Not stifled by snow, either.

4. Harvard. Sure, you’re great, with your hundreds of years of history and Nobel Prize winners and presidents and “Simpsons” writers. Lots of my good friends feel at least some loyalty to you as their alma mater, so I can’t put you in the bottom of the pack; but your ego, your privilege, and your sense of entitlement keep you out of the top three.

3. Columbia. Great books! New York City! Barnard! OK, it’s still yuppie, and land-grabby, and too full of itself, but remember, this is the Ivy League. We’re grading on a curve.

2. Brown. “You went to Brown, didn’t you, Otto?” “Sure did! Almost got tenure.”

1. Yale. Artsy and interesting like Brown, only with gravitas; built of warmer-colored stone than Princeton; with better weather than Dartmouth and Cornell; less snooty than Harvard; more liberal than Penn and less colonialist than Columbia, Yale is, on some level, the only acceptable Ivy League choice. Yet even it turned Rory into a monster. Buyer beware: maybe choose a state school instead.

Graphic via the Wall Street Journal article

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