If you thought that the financial crisis led to a breakup between Wall Street and students at Ivy League schools, you were wrong. Even if some of those idealistic grads may have claimed to be disillusioned with the financial industry, there classmates were not. Smaller salaries, protests and public resignations did not keep these smart kids down. According to recent reports, among the class of 2011, the financial industry was the top employer of graduates of Harvard, Duke, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania’s engineering school.
Laura Newland is writing a book about the influence of Wall Street on college campuses today. A Duke graduate herself who turned down a coveted Wall Street job, says until we really understand why Wall Street is able to grab our best and brightest, we won’t be able to change it. She wrote for DealBook;
“My generation has come of age in a society that tells its youth that we can do or be anything, but never mentions the suffocating price tag attached to our dreams. Like many of my peers, I entered college with unbridled ambition, only to confront a harsh economic reality: undergraduate loans, costly post-graduate degrees and high unemployment. In 2010, the average college student graduated with $25,000 in loans, the highest tally on record. Student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. No wonder our priorities are skewed.”
The relationship between Wall Street and elite schools has always been strong. According to a new study for the journal of Research in Social Stratification and Mobility by Lauren Rivera of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management it doesn’t matter if you invented a new type of electricity or 50 iPhone apps that will change the way we think while you were at University of Genericness. If you didn’t spend your four college years at schools in Cambridge, Princeton or New Haven then you are going to have a harder time getting that coveted finance job on Wall Street.
Obviously, money is a huge issue. These young women and men are coming out of school with more debt than ever before so why are we surprised they aren’t signing up to become doctors and go into even more obscene debt and not make any real money for at least six years.
Wall Street, even if it is less money that it was 10 years ago, still offers a robust package for graduates. Six figures and a bonus is not a bad way to start your adult life, even if you work all the time. Your friends may work for non-profits but you will own a boat in 10 years.
Plus, Newland points out that Wall Street is excellent at feeding the egos of the entitled mindset of many Ivy Leaguers. Dinners, field trips to the office, competitive (and lucrative) internships are appealing to this kind of aggressive and smart student. And even if maybe some of these new graduates did experience reservations about making this kind of money, it seemed to fade away as they became more committed to the company, according to Newland. She wrote, “I saw that being popular, good-looking and able to drink hard seemed to matter more than being smart. And as I began my internship search in the midst of the financial crisis, while the industry and our economy crumbled around us, not a single banker I met acknowledged blame on Wall Street’s part.”
So though there may have been a few protests on some campuses and many who paid homage to Greg Smith’s send off to Goldman Sachs, the romance between the Ivy League and Wall Street is still quite hot.