Friday, September 16, 2011

About a year ago, I wrote about a Gallup Poll from 1950 that asked people about where they would send a son to college if he could get in and they could afford it.   I recently ran across a similar question in a Roper/Fortune survey from 1949:  "if you had to pick one college or university in the United States where a boy could get the best education, regardless of cost, what one would you pick?"  The top ten (about 3000 people answered the question):

Harvard     258
Notre Dame  184
Yale        135
MIT         122
Cornell      78
Minnesota    67
Wisconsin    67
Columbia     62
Michigan     52
West Point   52
Ohio State   52

That's about the same as the Gallup list.  But Roper/Fortune also asked about where "a girl could get the best education."  The top ten:

Vassar      118
Wellesley    82
Smith        75
Barnard      66
Wisconsin    48
Minnesota    44
Berkeley     43
Northwestern 35
Winthrop     32
Ohio State   31

At the time, many of the leading universities didn't admit women as undergraduates.  Still, there were quite a few that did:  MIT, Cornell, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State from the top choices for boys, plus Penn, Chicago, Stanford, and others.  But the top four spots were taken by women's colleges.   I would have thought that Radcliffe would be at or near the top because of its association with Harvard, but it didn't make the top ten.  I wonder if some people said "Harvard" and were not counted (since Harvard College didn't admit women then).  Vassar's substantial need over the next three is also interesting.  But the big surprise is Winthrop, which I had never heard of.  It was a women's college in South Carolina--now it's coeducational and has become Winthrop University.  As I mentioned in the post on the Gallup survey, southerners didn't seem to have much regional loyalty when choosing colleges for a hypothetical son.  But maybe with a girl, ideas of the "best education" had a moral, social, and cultural component, and for some Southerners that could be had only in the South. 

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