RIC students attend forum led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Fifteen RIC students and three faculty members attended a forum led by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve and possibly the most powerful economist in the United States, in a town-hall style meeting at the Rhode Island Convention Center on Sept. 27.

The meeting was hosted by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, a nonpartisan public policy group, and brought together over 200 students from colleges and universities in Rhode Island. The RIC students selected to attend were senior economics and finance majors from the School of Management.

“I think it was a great opportunity as a student and as an economist to listen to Bernanke, both as the head of the Federal Reserve and as a Princeton professor,” said RIC economics major Anja McCall.

RIC professors Sanae Tashiro and Jeffrey Blais
Much of the discussion focused on the causes and questions surrounding the financial crisis of 2008, often referred to as the Great Recession. Bernanke also talked about the new regulations and financial overhauls, describing them as necessary, pointing out inconsistencies between the increasingly complex financial system of today and the regulatory bodies that were formed principally after the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“The system worked well for many decades, but was ill-equipped to handle the financial crisis,” said Bernanke.

“I liked that he listened carefully to the questions asked and picked a gem of a topic that he could expand upon," said Jeffrey Blais, chair of RIC's Economics and Finance Department. "You can definitely tell he was a lecturer for many years, ”

Bernanke told students they were doing the right thing getting an education, citing studies that suggest the annual return on investment for an undergraduate degree is approximately 15 percent, which he said was “pretty good nowadays.”

RIC economics and finance majors
Bernanke also said that college grads are half as likely to be unemployed during hard economic times and earn twice as much over the course of their lives. He advised that students consider the benefits of work experience, in addition to monetary gains, when they weigh career options.

“This was a fabulous chance for economics majors to listen to and ask questions of possibly the most influential economist in the country,” said Blais. “But also this was an opportunity for students to see their peers, and interact with students from other institutions.”