Felix Salmon

Online course of the day, investing department

Would you like to take a free online university course which teaches you the basics of quantitative analysis and also helps you manage your money so that you get high returns with low risk? Of course you would. Let me introduce you to Computational Investing, Part I, taught by Tucker Balch, Ph.D., on the Coursera website.

Why is NYU building?

On Thursday, I looked at the way in which cultural institutions tend to spend a huge amount of money on architecture, even if they would be better off spending that money more directly on their missions. In response, I got a fascinating email from a professor at NYU, asking me about its plan to spend some $6 billion on a hugely ambitious construction project — one which is fiercely opposed by local residents and NYU faculty.

Why Cooper Union can’t be trusted

Remember the murky finances of Cooper Union, which went from healthy to disastrous in no time at all? There’s a lot of controversy about what went wrong, where exactly the problems lie, and what’s the best way to fix them. But one thing’s abundantly clear: the management and trustees of Cooper Union have been unhelpfully opaque about the college’s finances for years, and the college’s students and alumni are fed up with the “trust us, we’ve worked it out this time” approach.

How much is a law degree worth?

David Segal is the best writer on the NYT’s business desk, so it’s a good thing that he was chosen to pen today’s 5,000-word disquisition on the economics of law degrees. He’s taken a particularly dry subject and turned it into a compelling and accessible read; that’s no mean feat.

The rhetoric of tuition inflation

Let’s say I earn $50,000 a year, and a widget costs $1,000. Then my pay goes up 3%, while the cost of the widget goes up 10%—year after year. Would you say that the widget has been getting more affordable over time? Stanley Fish would. Fish is approvingly citing a new book from Robert Archibald and David Feldman, which he quotes saying that “for most families higher education is more affordable than it was in the past”:

Disclosing economists’ conflicts

Gerald Epstein and Jessica Carrick-Hagenbarth have a 41-page paper out which gets boiled down quite effectively to its title: “Financial Economists, Financial Interests and Dark Corners of the Meltdown: It’s Time to set Ethical Standards for the Economics Profession”.

from Barbara Kiviat:

Is culture to blame for poverty?

Hello, Reuters readers. Thank you, Felix, for inviting me and Justin to guest blog while you're away. I promise to make the most of my newfound form of procrastination.

Harvard isn’t divesting from Israel

The noise surrounding a perceived rotation out of Israeli stocks by the Harvard endowment is really rather hilarious. Benjamin Joffe-Walt has managed to amass a whole sequence of quotes from people who have no idea what they’re talking about: one person is calling on “all academic institutions in the US” to follow Harvard’s lead and “divest from Israeli war crimes”; a second claims Harvard “still have tens of millions of dollars invested”; and a third comes up with the convoluted explanation* that it’s all to do with the fact that Morgan Stanley no longer considers Israel to be an emerging market:

The problems with university endowments

If you fancy some iPad reading for the Memorial Day weekend, you could do a lot worse than to download this Tellus paper into GoodReader or similar. It’s titled “Educational Endowments and the Financial Crisis: Social Costs and Systemic Risks in the Shadow Banking System; the lead author, who writes very clearly and readably, is Joshua Humphreys.