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Are Elite Colleges Still Worth It?

As I prepare to take my niece to visit my alma mater, I keep wondering how the college game got so crazy. I grew up in the same town of privilege as my niece and yes, way back then, kids and parents talked about the college process. But what has ensued in the subsequent two decades since my graduation from college can only be described as insane.

Before you write nasty comments, I admit that I'm talking about a small sliver of the population - those who who hire SAT tutors, college application consultants and lobby the test-takers to allow students the ability to toss out the scores they don't like. You'll recognize them as the parents who carry an armful of college ranking publications.

The old rationale for attending college for everyone was simple: get a good education because it will not only enrich your mind, it will also make you wealthier. Indeed, college graduates have fared better in this recession than those without degrees and college graduates earn more over their lifetimes. But it costs a boatload of money to attend a four-year private or public school, leading some to wonder: is college still worth it?

I remember that when people talked about attending prestigious schools when I was applying, one of the factors that guidance counselors heralded was the great networks that prestigious schools provide upon graduation. But is that really necessary today? Again, I think about the current residents in my old town - they have networks in place that obviate the need to attend one of the so-called blue ribbon universities.

All of this leaves me to believe that while it's nice to have a recognizable name on your resume, the obsession with the college application process should be downgraded in a big way. Doing so might actually allow our students to enjoy their high school experiences more and encourage parents to quit fretting so much.

More on MoneyWatch:
The Real 'Best Colleges' in the U.S.
The Best Colleges You've Never Heard Of
Why U.S. News' College Ratings Are a Joke
Best and Worst College Degrees By Salary
Are Ivy League Schools Fudging Their Ratings?
Top Colleges to Cut Big Aid Packages?
10 Colleges That Pay Most for Smart Kids

This post originally appeared The Financial Decoder blog on CBS Jill Schlesinger is the Editor-at-Large for CBS Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch, she was the Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.