This kind of status-conscious conversation makes me sick.
Brilliance emerges from any school and from no school whatsoever. Jimmy Page
didn't go to Julliard. Etc.
And many many great minds and teachers are at schools that are not ranked top 3 in US News & World Reports. Our parents or guidance counselors won't let us go study with them, why? They want to protect us from society's judgement later on in life. They want us to take advantage of our pedigree, especially if they can pay to provide that one-line item on our future resume. Que regalo!
I still wish I would have been able to find a way to study at Stockton State College in NJ for one semester so I could take a poetry workshop with my favorite living American poet Stephen Dunn. Alas, I was not strong enough to fight the pressure to just get into a "good" (status) school.
And then, as far as smartness goes, it isn't Harvard or Williams or any school. I think what you are really talking about is money. There's some list that talks about endowments and things like the average salary of graduates. So you won't have to debate it anymore. Just make it the real numbers game. And admit it. Its money.