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Universities With AAA Credit? Rate Them F-Minus

The spectacularly ruthless and insanely generous Andrew Carnegie once said, "The man who dies rich, dies disgraced."

I just saw that Harvard and Princeton both have AAA credit ratings, so allow me to paraphrase: "The university that lives with a triple-A credit rating lives disgraced."

I've railed about schools caring more about their endowments than anything else before, but this really blows me away. Harvard, Princeton, they're non-profits. But they have better credit ratings than General Electric, the parent company of this Web site.

Maybe they should be focusing more on educating their students, and less on their creditworthiness?

In my experience, being outstanding in one arena almost always detracts from your performance everywhere else. Perhaps they should be trying for mere adequacy as financial institutions and unparalleled excellence in education, rather than making sure they can borrow at reasonable rates? I think their priorities are misplaced — but then again, I only got a Harvard education, so what do I know about priorities?

The real problem, I hope, is not that Ivy League schools truly care more about their money than their mission. It's the quantification gap: It's really hard to measure educational excellence. Money? Quantification is its essence.

It's tempting to focus too much on things that can be counted at the expense of those that can't. I just wish my alma mater could resist the temptation.

Questions? Comments? Send them to millennialmoney@cnbc.com