What’s the Base Rate?

This is worthwhile question in many contexts, and it’s one I haven’t heard asked nearly often enough in or about school.

The base rate is what you get without taking any action: the interest rate on your savings account, for example, or the total return of the S&P 500.

It seems reasonable to assert that part of the promise of higher education (or indeed any education) is that it raises performance above what you might expect without any intervention.

That begs the question, what’s the correct base rate for education? Crudely, it has to do with how much growth you’d expect from a smart, driven student in the company of other smart, driven students over a given period of time.

Most college students also have the benefit of prefrontal cortex maturation between the ages of 18–22, and many grad students have the advantage of previous work experience.

So the base rate for college or grad school ought to be the kind of growth you’d expect from several hundred really smart people spending several years together.

And the question is, how much more does school provide? And how much should it?