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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

Adult courses

Meritocracy in America

Week 3: July 24-30, 2005

The registration period for this program has passed.
Please contact us if you have any questions.

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Robert H. Frank

Much heralded throughout its history as the land of opportunity, the U.S. has always prided itself on the ability of all kinds of people to find not just a place in America, but a good place.

In the nineteenth century, that promise was based on wide availability of cheap land, a bustling economy, and (for white men at least) a wide-open political and social system. In the twentieth century, opportunities became more plentiful for more people as the economy grew, as civil rights became better protected, and as merit-based entrance exams, the G.I. bill, and new waves of immigrants altered the look of college campuses and the professions.

Despite these impressive achievements, we are still beset—some say overwhelmed—with debates and disagreements about the workings, the outcomes, the purposes, and the fairness of our "achievement by merit" system.

In this course, led by eminent Cornell economist and CAU favorite Robert H. Frank, the Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor in the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell, who will be joined by colleagues from labor economics, education, sociology, politics, and law, we will probe patterns, issues, and dilemmas in our American "meritocracy."

With Bob and his colleagues, we will focus on such issues as college admissions, the compensation of corporate heads and professional athletes, pay equity vs. merit awards in the workplace, debates over what constitutes a "fair" tax system, and the key question of what we as a society owe to winners—and losers—in the meritocratic race.

Please come ready to take part in what we are sure will be a lively, provocative week.


Once you've registered, we'll send you materials on the academic program and other information to help you prepare for CAU. A $50 per person, per class, non-refundable deposit is required with your registration. All deposits are applied to the full program charges. Register now!

Program charges

Below are the program fees and housing choices for the on-campus summer programs. Please contact us if you have questions.

For adults staying on campus, the program fee (per adult, per week) includes the course, lodging, fifteen all-you-care-to-eat meals, banquet dinner, coffee breaks, hospitality hours, evening lectures, walks and talks, welcome and farewell receptions, conference-lot parking fees, and use of most of Cornell’s campus facilities. Some courses have additional fees as noted. Wednesday dinner is on your own. Some campus facilities, such as the golf course, also charge specific user fees.

Standard room, on-campus housing, and meals

$1,970 double occupancy, $100 single supplement

Standard room, on-campus housing with exclusive bath, and meals

$2,030 double occupancy, $150 single supplement

Course fee for commuters and those staying at Hilton Homewood Suites

$1,285. This fee does not include housing or meals. If you wish to stay at Hilton Homewood Suites, please call 607.266.0000 to make a reservation in the CAU block.

Commuter meal plan option

$327. Most CAUers staying at Hilton Homewood Suites select our meal plan for the week in order to enjoy the full CAU experience. It includes six breakfasts, five lunches, and four dinners.