Friday, February 05, 2010

Why Is Princeton so Rich?

Harvard may have the world's largest endowment, despite its 30% or more drop in its portfolio value, Princeton still has the highest endowment per student and the 4th largest in the world.

How did Princeton do it? It is a tiny university with under 8000 students in total compared to nearly 20,000 at Harvard and over 12000 at Yale?

Well, the legend is that the Admissions Office looks for brains and looks in addition to other criteria such as whether they are monied "legacy" kids whose parents and their parents have always attended Princeton.

Princeton's T.L.C. machinery is by any standard, especially by how other colleges discharge their duty of "in loco parentis" is only "deficient" against a $1500 a night Riokan in Kyoto where attendants serve their customers on hands and knees, making sure their boarders would experience a life-changing sejour at the centuries old "onsen" .

Princetonians, not exactly a low IQ crowd, despite obligatory grumbling about food and unresponsive Administration while at college -- like all undergrads anywhere -- would leave college knowing they had been spoiled rotten. They know in their heart of hearts they had been pampered at an intensity not since their infant days of suckling on their wet nurses' supple breasts.

One mother of a lovely Princeton co-ed told me in all seriousness that she "knew" for a fact that Princeton looked out for looks among its pool of applications for it was the unspoken policy there to encourage mating among the students. That was when her daughter was just a freshman. I thought it was a barely subtle comment by a proud mother of her daughter's good looks.

Fast forward 10 years she is marrying her classmate this Fall. I just received the invitation. It will be a cast of thousands at one of the poshest locations in NYC. Her future husband: a hedge fund manager -- of course.

What's the alleged reason behind getting good looking students? Well, elementary. First the presumption that Princeton graduates will do well financially -- a simple fact of life.

So, if students marry one another at a high percentage, then the Princeton Development Office needs only to make one phone solicitation to bag two checks, one from the wife, the other from the husband, 2 happy alumni.

How true is this folklore?

Don't take my word. This is straight from the horse's mouth:

..."Early in her undergraduate days at Princeton, Allison Slater Tate ’96 heard the rumor — the one that says 75 percent of Princeton alumni marry other Princeton alumni. Or was it 50? Or 90? No one (including University and Alumni Association officials) really knows.

Whatever the figure, as she went into her senior year, Tate didn’t think she would be another statistic. But she didn’t refrain from sharing the marriage rumor with prospective students as she led them through Prospect Garden on an Orange Key tour...

..."Dating at Princeton was so abysmal,” Tate says. “I’d heard the rumor, but I didn’t see it happening for me.”

That was before she met Trey Tate ’96 at the end of their senior year

...For the Tates, the 75 percent statistic isn’t hard to believe. Among their closest friends are married couples Paul Hanson ’96 and Oona Miller Hanson ’97, Ben Pecht ’96 and Banks Staples Pecht ’96, Tom Flummerfelt ’96 and Dahlia Fetouh ’96, Jennifer Hubbard ’96 and Frank Winslow ’96, and Dave Digilio ’96 and Kim Sladkin Digilio ’95. Among the Sladkin siblings, the number climbs to 100 percent — Kim’s two sisters, Colleen ’91 and Cheryl ’93, also married Princeton alumni..."


OK, you may ask, legitimately: Are these kids on average really better looking than those at its peers colleges? Yale? Brown- which recently hit the headlines having bagged Emma Watson, the Harry Porter girl? The highest paid actress in 2009, by the way?

What is the evidence?

Well, don't just believe what you read. Come Spring, spend a day walking around the beautiful campus. Pedestrian friendly. Not big. Decide for yourself whether by visual inspection Princeton guys and gals have a higher incidence of "looks" than other campuses before you choose the college of your dream to attend.

The Giving Rate among Princeton Alumni at nearly 70% is the highest in the nation, way way ahead of Harvard and Yale, both below 50%.

Princeton has shown the way to boost its endowment, why didn't the others follow? Just asking.


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