Risk Insider: Jack Hampton

What’s the Greater Risk: Student Debt or Internet Scorn?

By: | April 10, 2017 • 3 min read
John (Jack) Hampton is a Professor of Business at St. Peter’s University and a former Executive Director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS). His recent book deals with risk management in higher education: "Culture, Intricacies, and Obsessions in Higher Education — Why Colleges and Universities are Struggling to Deliver the Goods." His website is www.jackhampton.com.

The media spotlight is merciless and the Internet only magnifies the viral possibilities. We see the danger on a daily basis. Even the best and the brightest must be careful.

Thus far criticism has not developed for Ifeoma White-Thorpe, a New Jersey teenager recently accepted into every Ivy League college. Nor should it for the young lady who is a student council president at her public high school, winner of a national essay contest and who wants to pursue a career in global health policy.

Her biggest problem now is to decide which school offers the most financial aid. At least that’s what she said when interviewed by the media.

The high school senior recently told ABC NY, “I got into Harvard early action so I figured I’ll just go there … then I got into all the others and I was like, wait now, I don’t know where I want to go.”

She told CBS News, “It will likely come down to whichever university provides the best financial aid package.”

Whoops. Do these statements open the door for critics?

Let’s hope that we sort out some of the larger issues facing higher education. Many people are hurt by unbearable student debt, unethical recruiting practices, and emotional discussions that discourage bright foreign students from attending U.S. colleges and universities.

Some disgruntled souls might be tempted. How about the parents of students rejected by Harvard? Some 40,000 students applied for the 1,700 openings in the freshman class, a five percent acceptance rate.

A sadder story involves the hundreds of thousands of young people who together owe more than $1.3 trillion on student loans. Many of them will spend years if not decades getting out from under the debt load.

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Not to mention that they don’t have Ivy League degrees to help them dig out of that hole. Many have no degrees at all.

With the reputational dangers of the media, you never want to open doors for critics to rush in. Did Ifeoma accidentally do that?

Go back to the words “early action” and “best financial aid package.” If you are the middle-class parent of a bright teenager, you know what these words mean. Or do you?

Are “early action” applications binding? That is, if accepted by the school, do you have to attend it? Many people think yes, but the answer is no. The binding requirement goes with something called “early decision.” This does not apply to Ifeoma.

The financial package can also be misunderstood, even by Ifeoma herself. Ivy League schools don’t give “merit” financial aid.

Harvard and the others are quite explicit that they only give need-based financial assistance. For a family income below $60,000, Harvard does not expect parents to make any contribution to the cost of attending. Ninety percent of students attend Harvard at the same or lower cost than attending a public university in their home state.

Let’s hope that we sort out some of the larger issues facing higher education. Many people are hurt by unbearable student debt, unethical recruiting practices, and emotional discussions that discourage bright foreign students from attending U.S. colleges and universities.

It has been a few weeks since we learned the good news about Ifeoma. So far, no media firestorm has ignited.

As we congratulate Ifeoma, let’s hope a critical story does not go viral as she and her family move toward their final decision.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

This senior risk manager values his role in helping Varian Medical Systems support research and technologies in the fight against cancer.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

When I was 15 years old I had a summer job working for the city of Plentywood, mowing grass in the parks and ballfields, emptying garbage cans, hauling waste to the dump, painting crosswalk lines.  A great job for a teenager but I thought getting a college degree and working in an air-conditioned office would be a good plan long term.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

I was enrolled in the University of Montana as a general business student, and I wanted to declare a more specialized major during my sophomore year. I was working for my dad at his insurance agency over the summer, and taking new agent training coursework on property/casualty risks in my spare time, so I had an appreciation for insurance. My dad suggested I research risk management for a career, and I transferred sight unseen to the University of Georgia to enroll in their risk management program. I did an internship as a senior with the risk management department at Sulzer Medica, and they offered me a full time job.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

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We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks. If we initiate a collaborative exercise with the risk owners — people who may have unique knowledge about that particular risk — and include a cross section of people from other corporate functions, you can do an effective job of taking the risk apart to analyze it, figure out a way to manage that exposure, and then reap the upside benefits while reducing the downside exposure. That can be done with new products and new service offerings, when there isn’t coverage available for a risk. It’s asking, is there anything we can do to reduce the risk without transferring it?

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

Cyber liability. There’s so much at stake and the bad guys are getting more resourceful every day. At Varian, our first approach is to try to make our systems and products more resilient, so we’re trying to direct resources to preventing it from happening in the first place. It’s a huge reputation risk if one of our products or systems were compromised, so we want to avoid that at all costs.

We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

I’ve worked with a number of great ones over the years. We’ve enjoyed a great property insurance relationship with Zurich. Their loss control services are very valuable to us. On the umbrella liability side, it’s been great partnering with companies like Swiss Re and Berkley Life Sciences because they’ve put in the time and effort to understand our unique risk exposures.

R&I: How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

One hundred percent through a broker. I view our broker as an extension of our risk management team. We benefit from each team member’s respective area of expertise and experience.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

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I think so. The brokers were kind of villainized by Spitzer. I think it’s fair for brokers and insurers to make a reasonable profit, and if a portion of their profit came from contingent commissions, I’m fine with that. But I do appreciate the transparency and disclosure that came out as a result of the fiasco.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the US economy or pessimistic and why?

David Collins, Senior Manager, Risk Management, Varian Medical Systems Inc.

While we might be doing fine here in the U.S. from an economic perspective, the Middle East is a mess, and we’re living with nuclear threat from North Korea. But hope springs eternal, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping saner minds prevail and our leaders throughout the world work together to make things better.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My Dad got me started down the insurance and risk path. I’ve also been fortunate to work for or with a number of University of Georgia alumni who’ve been mentors for me. I’ve worked side by side with Karen Epermanis, Michael Rousseau, and Elisha Finney. And I’ve worked with Daniel Dean in his capacity as a broker.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

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Raising my kids. I have a 15-year-old and 12-year-old, and they’re making mom and dad proud of the people they’re turning into.

On a professional level, a recent one would be the creation and implementation of our global travel risk program, which was a combined effort between security, travel and risk functions.

We have a huge team of service personnel around the world, traveling to customer sites to do maintenance and repair. We needed a way to track, monitor and communicate with them. We may need to make security arrangements or vet their lodging in some circumstances.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

My 12-year-old son thought my job responsibilities could be summed up as a “professional worrier.” And that’s not too far off.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

Varian’s mission is to focus energy on saving lives. Proper administration of the risk function puts the company in a better position to financially support research that improves products and capabilities, helps to educate health care providers and support cancer care in general. It means more lives saved from a terrible disease. I’m proud to contribute toward that.

When you meet someone whose cancer has been successfully treated with one of our products, it’s a powerful reward.




Katie Siegel is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]