Felix Salmon

The costs and benefits of grad school

January 7, 2010

I’m a great believer in the benefits of an undergraduate education when it’s done right (which is rarely). But grad school is a different matter entirely: the opportunity costs are much higher, the amount of debt involved rises substantially, and the range of jobs you can do at the end of it in many ways goes down rather than up.

The PhD in financial journalism

December 22, 2009

Did you know that it’s possible to get a PhD in financial journalism? Lennie Fuller does — he’s a former Lehman executive who’s now thinking of doing exactly that at Stirling University. He asked me if I had any ideas about possible thesis topics, and I thought in my bloggy way that throwing the question open might be interesting. So what do you think the big open questions in or about financial journalism are?

Those Harvard swaps: Even more of a fiasco than we thought

December 18, 2009

Bloomberg takes a dive into the Harvard swaps fiasco today, and uncovers some pretty juicy information. For instance, check out Larry Summers’s state of mind when he was entering into the swaps:

How Larry Summers lost Harvard $1.8 billion

November 29, 2009

Most people, if they’ve hired a legendary fund manager on a multi-million-dollar salary to look after investments and liquidity, would listen to the advice of that person. But most people aren’t Larry Summers:

The weird resignation of Brandeis’s president

September 25, 2009

The latest chapter in the Brandeis fiasco is that president Jehuda Reinharz is resigning, just one year after signing a new five-year employment contract. The official letters don’t once mention the name “Rose”, which is insane: how can Reinharz say with a straight face that he “will leave the University in good condition with a strong foundation on which to build in the future”, even as there’s still enormous uncertainty over the question of whether the university will have to sell millions of dollars from the Rose’s art museum just to make up its funding shortfall?

Harvard donations: Down, not up

September 16, 2009

On Friday, I posted a chart which I thought showed donations to Harvard University rising substantially over the past couple of years, to over $1.6 billion a year. Boy was I wrong. As the Crimson reports, Harvard received $602 million in gifts this past fiscal year—an 8 percent year-on-year decline.

How endowments spend tuition payments

September 15, 2009

If you want a defense of the endowment style of investing, Michael Hennessy provides a really good one. Even he, however, admits that many endowments went way too far during the boom years:

Chart of the day: Harvard donations

September 11, 2009

Well done to Jane Mendillo for increasing the transparency of the Harvard endowment, moving from a relatively terse “John Harvard letter” to a more discursive “Endowment Report”. Whence comes this chart:

Chart of the day, College tuition edition

September 9, 2009


This chart comes from John Caddell, and it shows the cost of attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a percentage of US median income. Scary stuff. But not as scary as David Leonhardt’s column today, which demonstrates a nasty ghettoization effect at state colleges, many of which are turning into failure factories: