Thursday, October 15, 2009

Princeton vs Harvard

In an earlier blog I proposed parents use as a FIRST CUT the criterion of "endowment per student". A friend, Mark, who is an alumnus of both Princeton (AB) and Harvard (PhD) pointed out to me that Princeton has the highest alumni giving rate on this planet which to him explained why his Alma Mater has the largest endowment per student.

I disagreed with that causal equation. I think with a high endowment per capita the college can splurge on its students providing what i call TLC during the student's most likely the 4 most formative and critical years of his/her life. Students remember. The more TLC they received the more generous they give back to the college that took good care of them.

Princeton is particularly smart in its TLC management. Most likely the smartest.

It restricts its student body so as not to dilute its per capita $$ to allow it to provide the best care money can buy. I pointed out in an earlier blog, I had never seen or smelled so much money on any campus I had had the opportunity to have spent time: Harvard, Oxford, Columbia, NYU, Berkeley, Stanford. Stanford is close, but not quite.

There is much more to this story of college preference based solely on endowment/student of course. More on this later. A hint. Harvard remains the college to "beat". It retains a mythical place in the collective psyche of USA -- right or wrong. Yet, interestingly, its alumni giving rate is substantially below that of Princeton. US News has data on this. From memory, Princeton's Giving Rate is in the high 60% vs mid 40% at Harvard.

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