In PE Derby, Harvard Sets the Pace

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Last year 11 percent of new Harvard MBAs went to work for PE firms, at a median compensation level slightly above $200,000. And at least 27 percent of the founders of PE and venture capital firms got their MBAs at Harvard, the university's head of MBA admissions and financial aid told the newspaper's DealJournal blog.

As reports of astronomical payouts propel the appeal of PE employers ahead of even hedge funds, other top business schools are moving to boost their penetration of the notoriously clubby sector.

"MBA programs are offering more intensive private-equity courses and strengthening their connections with buyout firms to help students land jobs. At the same time, schools are trying to lure junior employees of buyout shops to their MBA programs to groom them for higher-level positions in private equity," the Journal says.

Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business has held road shows at PE firms in New York, Boston and Silicon Valley, promoting its MBA program and Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship.

Columbia Business School is taking a different tack, striving to create an intensive PE experience in the classroom. According to the WSJ, a planned PE "master class" at Columbia next year will feature: a recently retired PE executive as co-leader; tracing a company's passage through the buyout cycle that culminated with going public again; face-to-face exchanges between students and executives and investors in the target company; and students making presentations to PE professionals.

The bottom line: The right business school ties are perhaps more important in PE than in any other area of finance. An alumni network is critical, both for breaking into the field, and for sourcing deals once you're in.

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