Winnie the Pooh and Where’s the Honey?

I recently attended an alumni meeting organized by my undergrad University. It was the usual get-together at a nice hotel, with free-flowing champagne, presentations on the latest happenings in the college world to make the alumni swell with ear-aching pride, endlessly boring talks by professors on their cutting edge research, etc. etc. Blah!

At the end of it all, there was of course the customary lucky draw. Up for grabs was a bottle of questionable Scotch, an University-emblem engraved pen (ball-point!), and a sinister looking teddy-bear key-chain whose nudity was covered by the smallest University t-shirt I’ve ever seen. I dropped my business card with huge misgivings into the lucky-bowl. Lucky draws are just plain evil. They raise your hopes, only to dash them. Anyway, my misgivings were because I was afraid I would actually win one of these¬† prizes.

The bottle of Scotch went (to someone else), and so did the pen. Both times, my card came agonizingly close to being picked. I could literally see my card just managing to elude the fat pudgy fingers of the MC. Alas, when it came to the last prize, those fat bastards grabbed my card by the scruff of the neck, and delivered the verdict, swift and fast.

So, I’m stuck with this sinister looking teddy-bear key-chain, and as I was eye-balling it back, I noticed a small yellow cardboard flap pinned on its butt (that must hurt, but would be a great conversation piece); you know, those cards which explain the product. Here’s what mine said:

  1. The filling 100% new material
  2. The fabric conforms to flameproof requirements
  3. The eyes are of the safety lock-in type
  4. Handwash in warm soapy water. Short machine spin in pillowcase. Do not tumble dry.
  5. Due to small parts this key ring is not suitable for children under 36 months.

(the bold above is how it is on the butt-card) I was beyond grief that I would not be able to pluck its damn eyes out. What really got my hair in a tangle though was the fifth point. How on earth did this company that makes sinister looking teddy bears figure that out? I can only imagine that they handed a number of these bears out to a bunch of kids of various ages and waited to see who was the youngest who died due to strangulation by the eye-balling freak.

My whole gout with this episode is that as an alumni of a pretty prestigious University, the least they could have done was to give out more materially valuable gifts. Com’n, I paid a heck of a lot to study there, and funding it was not easy. To give me a teddy-bear whose eyes I can’t pluck out, and who kills 3-year olds with the switftness of a ninja¬†just reeks of cheapness and an attitude of go-suck-an-egg. This coming after all those talks meant to make us swell with oozing pride just didn’t go down well. If I wanted a teddy bear, I can go onto the online shop of my University, pay ~$3 and order it myself. I don’t need Ms. Pudgy-fingers doing that for me.

This then led me to INSEAD. The majority of the scholarship decisions for INSEAD came out today. I’ve been talking to a few people from my class, especially those from need-based countries like Africa, India, China, etc., and the general consensus is that raising money for the tuition and living fees is proving to be far more arduous than ever imagined. The exchange rate and the salaries drawn are just not enough to pay even 25% of the tuition fees. Bank loans are almost impossible to come by, with most banks asking for 100% collateral. Heck, if students had 100% collateral, they wouldn’t be going to INSEAD. They would be living very comfortably in their own countries. Most of these folks are literally banking on winning a substantial scholarship to see them through this difficulty.

The average scholarship award given per student last year was something like EUR 12000; that’s 1/5th of the tuition fees. And, only 20% of the admits get scholarships. If you are from a low-cost location, and you are among the 20% who get a scholarship, that still leaves you trying to pay for the rest of the course.

This problem is not isolated to INSEAD. Similar stories are being heard in HBS, Booth, GSB, Columbia, etc. MIT is the only one who’s managed to find a lender for its international students. Top-10 b-schools really need to put their money where their mouth is. Firstly, they make us go through this insane admissions process, and then they put us through this shit of trying to find funding. How can anyone be stopped from studying due to a lack of funds? That’s almost criminal.

If they’re really such great schools, they should have the gumption to vouch for the quality of their students, and agree to underwrite the whole loan. What I’m being led to conclude is that the schools themselves don’t have any faith in the quality of their brand. But, they have the gall to act like snooty lords accepting and rejecting applicants as they like.

INSEAD has claimed it’s hard for them to act as co-signers due to multiple nationalities present at it’s school, and that banks are uncomfortable giving loans to students whose credit worthiness they’re not able to verify. Excuse me, but isn’t that diversity supposed to be great, boundary-breaking, uplifting, etc.? Isn’t this diversity the primary fabric of INSEAD? Doesn’t INSEAD pick the greatest and brightest from all the different nationalities? Aren’t we told that we are probably the best from these different nations? Isn’t our potential to be global business leaders one of the reasons why we were selected?

Then, why is there a difficulty in being able to underwrite student loans with a global bank like HSBC (for example)? Surely the top-10 schools can do better? This almost makes me feel proud of winning the crummy teddy-bear whose eyes I can’t pluck out, and whose filling is made of, by the looks of things, sterner stuff than b-schools.