We’re not sure if you are aware of this startling fact of American life, dear reader, but here it is: College is expensive. Like, really, really expensive. Even if you go as cheap as you can, attending an in-state public university, the sticker price for four years is close to $40,000; at a private university, the average is more like $140,000. At the highest end, the Ivy League, $140,000 will only cover about two years.
Most Americans don’t have that kind of scratch just sitting around, and so they have to take on loans to finance their education. The average college graduate begins her career something like $30,000 in the hole, a number that can rise significantly, of course, with the school’s U.S. News & World Report ranking. (It must be said that the top colleges also happen to be the most generous with aid; even so, the average out-of-pocket cost for four years on an Ivy-covered campus can still be around $100,000.)
All of the above have a lot of people asking whether college is worth it at all, and a lot of people who go to college and graduate with tens of thousands of dollars of student loans are answering that question, “no.”
There are, however, some people for whom the answer is emphatically the opposite, even for the biggest-ticket degrees out there. These people are called hedge fund managers.
The study, called “Manager Characteristics and Hedge Fund Returns, Liquidity, and Survival,” found that the educational pedigrees of hedge fund managers directly affected arcane, but crucial, characteristics like the liquidity of their portfolios…. According to the study, these funds not only delivered higher returns on average, but also lower risk, higher Sharpe ratios, and higher alphas, or returns above a benchmark….
Park found that a manager’s education signaled whether or not their hedge fund would be around in the long term…. Park found that on average managers with a degree from a top 10 school ran funds with longer lock-up and redemption notice periods. These asset managers also processed requests from investors to redeem their shares less frequently than other funds. In addition, managers with elite degrees charged higher performance fees, but lower annual management fees than other funds.
Why? Well, it’s not the education itself, of course, nor even the connections one makes on campus, rather a dubious proposition these days anyway. It’s the old boys’ network and the ability of a piece of parchment written in Latin to wow the plebs.
Park argued that alumni networks contribute to the bump that managers get from top schools. “The major driving force is trust inspired by the reputation and network of elite institutions,” she wrote in the study.
In other words, if you didn’t go to one of the Ancient Eight or its adjacent elites, should you not even bother starting a hedge fund? Maybe just go into something that actually serves a public good or, worse still, mutual funds? Don’t be discouraged. There is another way. Unfortunately, this way is even harder that getting into a top school in the first place.
An even better indication of survival, according to the study, was whether or not a manager that holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. Between 1994 and 2015, the so-called hazard rate, or rate at which they fail, of funds managed by CFAs was 13.6 percent lower than other funds after controlling for factors such as risk, return, and investment style.