Students in the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics at Washington and Lee University can now receive scholarships from the University to study for the exam to become a chartered financial analyst (CFA). Washington and Lee recently received official recognition from the CFA Institute, thereby making it eligible to offer scholarships to prepare for level one of the exam, a graduate-level self-study program for students interested in financial analysis as a career.
Adam Schwartz, the Lawrence Term Professor of Business Administration at the Williams School, and a CFA himself, said that CFA is a "very sought-after designation and helpful for promotion in some financial analyst positions. It certainly gives students an advantage in the job market, and I have heard practitioners describe it as the union card to work as a portfolio manager."
The scholarships reduce the price of the exam for students from $1,400 to $350. Previously, W&L offered scholarships to prepare for the exam under a different program. Every year, many students are interested in learning more about the topic outside their classes at the Williams School.
Senior David Fishman, a double major in business accounting and economics, one of the five recipients of the scholarship, has intended to sit for the CFA exam since high school. "It's an integral component of the equity research occupation, so this scholarship is a fantastic opportunity for me to realize my goals," he said. "Professor Schwartz went out of his way to provide another opportunity for current and future W&L students interested in finance to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive environment."
Students receive books from the CFA Institute on six different topics, including finance, accounting and ethics. In June, after graduating from W&L, they are eligible to sit for the level-one exam.
Annually, approximately 150,000 people worldwide sit for the CFA exams, which comprise three levels. The pass rate for level one is 40 percent. The pass rate for level two, contingent on passing level one, is also 40 percent, and the pass rate for level three, contingent on passing level two, is 50 percent. Students may retake a failed exam, but must pass all three levels and meet other criteria to complete the program. Approximately one in eight people who start the CFA program receive the CFA charter.
"We have several W&L alumni who have taken and passed all three levels and are now in the process of becoming CFAs," said Schwartz, " and we have a lot of W&L students who are interested in doing the same."
In addition to Fishman, W&L seniors who received the scholarships this year are Lijaing Liu, a double major in business administration and mathematics; accounting major Kathleen Yakulis; Christy Cui, a double major in economics and music; and Stanislav Buncak, a double major in business administration and Russian area studies. Although membership is not a requirement to be considered for the scholarship, all the scholarship recipients belong to the Williams Investment Society, the student organization that manages more than $1.9 million of W&L's endowment in equity securities.
Institutional recognition by the CFA Institute demonstrates that an institution's degree program provides students with a solid grounding in the CFA Program Candidate Body of Knowledge, including the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct in their curriculum.