How Should Alumni Think About Giving Back?

Antonia writes in with a conundrum:

As a graduate of three private schools (K-8, high school, and college), around this time of year I receive a slew of letters, emails, and phone calls asking me to pledge to various annual funds. I've always been told by my parents that I should support my former schools financially because alumni giving rates directly correlate to the prestige of any private institution. In other words, by giving even the minimum of $20, I'm ensuring the value of my diploma. Is this true?

"Never Follow Your Dreams": Mark Cuban Answers Your Questions

Last week, we solicited your questions for Mark Cuban -- serial entrepreneur, Dallas Mavericks owner, and blogger, who recently published an eBook called How to Win at the Sport of Business.

Here now are Cuban's answers. A lot of answers. Granted, most of them are short but Cuban can pack a lot into a terse words (unlike a few million politicians and businessfolk we know). He has some strong words on financial engineering and, if you read carefully, lots of good career advice. My hands-down favorite: "Never follow your dreams. Follow your effort."

College Football Victories = Worse Grades?

Yes, at least for guys. That's according to a new study (abstract; PDF) by University of Oregon economists Jason M. Lindo, Isaac D. Swensen, and Glen R. Waddell. Drawing on 8 years of data from nearly 30,000 Oregon students, they found that three fewer Ducks' wins per season would increase male students' GPA scores by roughly .02 -- a relatively minor effect, truth be told, considering that three extra wins in college football is the difference between a good team and a bad one.

The authors attribute the grade drop to an increase in partying and alcohol consumption when the team wins, paired with a decrease in studying. Women also tend to drink and party more when the Ducks win, but the GPA effect wasn't nearly as strong. So if you're the parent of an Oregon student, you might be rooting for the Ducks to lose a little more often than they do.

If You're Looking for a Deal on Tuition…

In stark contrast to the rest of its peers, the University of Charleston, a private university in West Virginia, recently announced a 22 percent tuition cut for new students for the fall 2012 semester. From a recent press release:

The university is guaranteeing that no undergraduate student will pay more than $19,500 for tuition next year. This is a reduction of $5,500 or 22% from 2011-12 tuition of $25,000. Tuition for new freshmen and undergraduate transfer students will be $19,500. Tuition for returning undergraduates next year will be $25,500, with a guarantee of at least $6,000 in university aid, ensuring that no student will pay more than $19,500 in tuition.

Cost of College on the Rise (Again)

The numbers are in on how much it costs to go to college this year, and (surprise) they're up again, thanks largely to decreases in state funding and increasing enrollments. The biggest price hikes came in the public sector: An 8.7 percent increase for in-state tuition at public two-year schools, and an 8.3 percent jump in the price of four-year public institutions, for in-state students.

If you remove California (which enrolls about 10 percent of the nation's full-time public four-year college students), those numbers drop to 7.4 percent and 7 percent, respectively. That's because California jacked its prices for public four-year colleges a whopping 21 percent this year. Hence the student protests last spring.

Here are the highlights:

If Handing Off a Family Business to the Next Generation, What's the Key Thing to Avoid?

What's the difference in performance between a family business where the CEO hands off leadership to a member of the family versus an outside CEO? That's one of the questions our latest podcast, “The Church of Scionology,” tries to answer. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.)

Stanford economist Francisco Pérez-González has looked at the data to try to figure this out. (His paper "Inherited Control and Firm Performance" can be found here). He compiled data from 335 management transitions across a number of industries with concentrated ownership or founding family involvement. He compared 112 blood-related successions to 213 unrelated ones. Here, first, is a breakdown of successions by industry, and by family-handoff within industries:

How to Destroy a University

A colleague elsewhere, who wishes to remain nameless for fear of retribution, has illustrated how easy it is to destroy a university. His is abolishing its economics graduate programs; introductory economics will be taught in sections of 1,000 students; professors do their own purchasing of supplies; and upper-division courses are being sharply reduced in number.

All this is a response to calls for greater efficiency in higher education. Is this really greater efficiency? Or is it a move to a different point on the production possibility frontier, essentially choosing to convert a research institution into a mediocre equivalent of a two-year college? Calls for professors to teach more to save higher-education money have consequences—there ain’t no free lunch here. Of course, too, such policies drive away faculty members who might be interested in doing research. Fortunately, not all public universities are following this troglodyte approach.

The Numbers Game: Is College Worth The Cost?

According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Americans say "the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend."

Does that mean that college isn't worth it? Not exactly. In fact, given the crappy economy, a college degree is more valuable than ever, a point that Levitt makes in a recent Freakonomics Radio podcast. The most telling statistic as to the value of college: the unemployment rate among college graduates is less than half (4.5%) that for people with only a high school diploma (9.7%) (See the BLS employment status table here.)

How Much Value Does an "Elite" College Provide?

How far will a degree from an elite college get you? Only in the door, says a new study of Israeli grads.