Economic Crisis Puts Jobs, Growth In Focus

This story was written by Emmeline Zhao, The Duke Chronicle


The year's tumbling economy has led to employment mayhem and even greater uncertainty for many Duke University students seeking careers on Wall Street.

Considered the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, 2008 has seen it all-from Bear Stearns being swallowed by J.P. Morgan Chase in March to CitiGroup's acquisition of Wachovia last month-a decision made just before the U.S. House of Representatives first rejected the $700-billion bank bailout plan.

In September, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy soon after Merill Lynch was sold to Bank of America earlier that month. Two of the country's largest investment banks-Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs-were reduced to bank holding companies just a few days later.

The stock market roller coaster took another dive this month, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping 733 points in a single day-the second-worst one-day loss it has experienced in history.

Not only has the slumping economy taken a toll on big-name investment bankers and investors, but has also carried over to students who are now scrambling to piece together the shambles of what was once considered their golden route to success.

"It's really unfortunate for [students] seeking jobs and everyone who's had offers-they don't know if those offers still stand because many of those firms don't exist anymore or exist under different names," senior Matt Miniat, president of Network for Future Executives, told The Chronicle last month. "It's just a really tough, uncertain time."

The uncertainty on campus also extends beyond the usual scope, as students are faced with fewer interview opportunities and are beginning to second-guess their career decisions.

To alleviate the slamming impact of a high chance of unemployment for many of Duke's Wall Street-bound seniors, the Career Center is offering guidance and support for those exploring alternative career paths and fields.

Last month, the Duke University Management Company revealed a 6.2 percent growth in returns for fiscal year 2008-a drastic decline from last year's 25.6 percent growth-but higher than the negative 4.4 percent median growth for Trust Universe Comparison Service's major institutional investors.

"We did relatively well last year. We got 6.2 [percent]. That wasn't the best in the country, but it is among the best," Executive Vice President Tallman Trask told The Chronicle this month.

Still, being the best of the worst does not put the University in the ideal financial position. Trask noted that although a weak but stable market will allow Duke to follow through with certain initiatives in coming years, a long-range view of the future still poses questions as to whether return growth numbers similar to previous years is possible.

For current and potential students, however, the deepening financial crisis does not translate to lower tuition, as families can expect a moderate, regular increase on Bursar Bills in coming years, Provost Peter Lange told The Chronicle this week.
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