The “$100K in student loans from an elite liberal arts education” idea was current when I was in school, 20 years ago; whether or not it was true then, it influenced my selection of a university. As I pointed out, I’m aware that this is no longer the case in many places, and appreciate the change.
My suggestion about the dance major was based on (admittedly anecdotal) experience — I have to wonder how many dance majors (as opposed to the more practical 🙂 English or philosophy majors) actually get into law school.
I wish I had a real answer to the question asking in the original post, though. I mean, those who’ve never had money, may, as a point of pride, eschew the rat race for something more socially redeeming once they’ve achieved some measure of security. But having some family money or connections makes it that much easier to dabble in good causes and duck back out again later without being ghettoized. Sadly, the plural of anecdote isn’t data.