Where do smart cheapskates go to college?
Part of the reason, presumably, is that students with very high SATs, grades, etc. disproportionately tend to be the children of well off parents. While college purports to be about education, a large part of its role in our society is as a place where people can spend four years enjoying themselves, searching for friends and mates, developing useful social contacts, and the like. If the children of well off parents are going to spend their time that way, they might as well do it in comfort. And for very smart applicants whose parents aren't well off, the schools have an extensive system of discriminatory pricing aka financial aid.
On the other hand, most of what these schools are spending money on seems to have a rather tenuous connection to the quality of education. That left me wondering whether there are any schools that specialize in smart cheapskates--provide a good education in the company of smart people at the lowest practical cost, which I would expect to be under half the cost of the elite schools we've been looking at.