Moneyball College Admissions Rules: Ignore the Status Quo

Bowling ball knocking down pinsLast week I talked about taking a Moneyball approach to the college admissions process. The idea being that as in Major League Baseball, the college admissions market is not operating efficiently resulting in some players/schools being significantly undervalued where others are way over-priced.

If you’ve got money to blow on college, you may not care if you’re paying more than you have to for a quality education. But if you’re like Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, paying a lot of money for a college education is simply not an option.

In Moneyball, Michael Lewis summarizes Billy Beane’s five rules for trading/buying players They make perfect sense in the context of baseball but as I was thinking about how they apply to college admissions, I remembered why one of my writing professors warned us about using extended metaphors for a topic.

So, I ‘ve been putting this off because I thought not all of them translate well into paying for college, especially the first one.  But I’ve decided to try it anyway starting with the first rule–feel free to tell me I’m reaching here and should have listened to my professor.

Anyway, the first rule:

No matter how successful you are, change is always good. There can never be a status quo. When you have no money you can’t afford long-term solutions, only short-term ones. You have to always be upgrading. Otherwise you’re f#@##d.*

You can see the problem. Most college students don’t go looking for better opportunities mid-way through their college career. In fact, doing so can lower your chances of graduation and increase your costs rather than reduce them.

But I think the key point in relation to Moneyball college admissions is in the first two sentences. This is an argument against the current situation in college admissions where the same schools appear in the top 20 national universities rankings year after year. Because this listing never really changes, these schools are in demand, have their pick of students, and can charge them what they like.

If you can’t come up with your own personal list of top 20 schools that is different from the US News College Rankings, then not only are you limiting your options, you’re making them a lot more expensive.

Getting into a top 20 school is the “safe” option. After all, they’ve probably been in the top 20 for a while and aren’t going anywhere. But you will pay for it.

However, since the size of these schools aren’t keeping up with population growth, there is an increasing number of talented students ending up at other schools, creating opportunities for themselves and those around them. And probably at a lower price.

I think the Moneyball college admissions takeaway for the first rule is that the answer isn’t always with the status quo. How can the same 20 schools be the only acceptable answer to a quality college education year after year with all of the other changes going on in the world today? If you’re looking for an affordable, quality school, you’re going to need look somewhere other than the usual places.

*Moneyball, page 193

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