Lately, there has been much wringing of hands over the problem of student "undermatching"—that is, enrolling at a less prestigious college than he or she might have gotten into. I'm inclined to think this is much ado about almost nothing and we have more serious matching problems—the overmatching that comes (mostly) from racial preferences and the simple mismatching that comes from students choosing a school that will not afford them the optimal educational environment (such as choosing a "party school" because it will be fun). In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, I take a look at the matching problems and conclude that there isn't much that the government can do to help.
Consumers tend to shop very carefully for most other things they buy—cars, homes, meals in restaurants, cell phones, and so on. Rarely do we hear about a person being "mismatched" to his car. The difference, I think, is that with other consumer purchases, the individual can get very good information about the item and spends his own money on it.