One hundred twenty-eight seniors are enrolled in the finance program this year, more than the number of seniors enrolled in the University's most popular major.
But an even greater number want to be in the program, said Swati Bhatt, finance program representative.
Many students decide they want to earn the certificate too late in their Princeton careers, and the complex array of prerequisites for entry into the program necessitates early and careful planning, she said.
In response, the program has adopted more aggressive tactics to recruit students.
"We want to make students aware as early as possible" about the program and the related requirements, she said.
Recently, Bhatt took the unusual step of forwarding an e-mail to the entire undergraduate class about a finance program information session.
Before junior year, a certificate candidate is expected to have taken ECO 200: Statistics and Data Analysis for Economics, ECO 305: Microeconomic Theory: A Mathematical approach and MAT 200: Linear Algebra and Multivariable Calculus for Economists. But these courses also have prerequisites, including ECO 101, ECO 102, MAT 103 and MAT 104.
Though some requirements can occasionally be fulfilled junior year, Bhatt said not having met them by the end of sophomore year is "sub-optimal."
Not following the recommended program forces students to "crunch in the courses," she said.
Taking seven courses in the four semesters prior to junior year all for the finance program is a task that many students simply do not accomplish.
Further, no prerequisites are explicitly related to finance, meaning that a student is expected to commit to all seven courses before actually experiencing a course in finance.
The program's core courses, ECO 317: Financial Investments and ECO 318: Corporate Finance are usually not taken until the junior year.
But students are exposed to some basic financial concepts even before the core courses, by following the news and taking program prerequisites such as ECO 305.
Bhatt also said the prerequisites are valuable in their own right, and that students would not have wasted their time if they abandon the program part way.
Despite the heavy load of prerequisites, the program is tremendously popular. Enrollment has grown steadily since the program's first class graduated in 2000. Bhatt credits the favorable reputation of the program and the tight job market for the popularity.
Not everyone, however, believes the finance program's rigorous prerequisites and skyrocketing popularity are wholly a good thing.
Some say it exemplifies a trend at the University toward more pre-professional majors or departments.
English professor John Fleming said there was a faculty meeting a few years ago during which a colleague raised the point that the finance program might seem similar to a business school.
Bhatt emphasized that the finance program does not strive to be a business school but said that until the job market tightened, most program graduates headed to the private financial sector after leaving the University — something most students do not do until receiving a business degree.
"We are broadening our reach to the public sector," Bhatt said. "But it is the right thing to do."
Fleming said he did not view the finance program as any more professionally oriented than majors like chemistry and biology.
But he said he is worried University students are too concerned with their careers when selecting courses. The University should be "educating, not training" Fleming said.
However, some students — like Heather Morr '03 — have found ways to combine a more traditional liberal arts education with the finance certificate program.
Morr, a comparative literature major, is one of only 16 humanities majors in the finance program in the Class of 2003.
Though Morr gave the courses rave reviews, she said she was unusually lucky in that she filled many of her departmental requirements very early in her four years, freeing up slots for the finance program's requirements.
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