Alum helps Harvard team win College Fed Challenge


By Lauren Sonnenberg

Ben Sprung-Keyser ’11 and four teammates at Harvard College won first place in the College Fed Challenge, a competition for undergraduate college students interested in the Federal Open Market Committee.

Ben Sprung-Keyser ’11 and four teammates at Harvard College won first place in the College Fed Challenge, a competition for undergraduate college students interested in the Federal Open Market Committee.

The competition is sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, part of the Federal Reserve system, which is the United States’ central bank.

It is charged with managing US fiscal and monetary policy, and is most recently responsible for the “quantitative easing,” intended to respond to the current economic strategies.

Using their understanding of the Federal Reserve System and American modern economy, undergraduates formulated a 15-minute presentation for a panel of academic and professional economists.

The second part of the competition consisted of a 15-minute question and answer interaction where students were asked to defend their proposed economic or monetary policies. Five different Federal Reserves ran regional competitions, and the winners of those moved on to a five team national competition that took place in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 29.

Sprung-Keyser and his team first competed against 22 other teams at the Boston Federal Reserve. Upon arriving at the national competition, they presented in front of a three-judge panel.

The Eastern Economic Association judged students on their economic analysis, their ability to respond to questions, teamwork and presentation.

Harvard’s team proposed the Federal Reserve should adopt “price level targeting,” meaning it should target a 2 percent inflation rate each year, but it would be adjusted based on previous failures. If it failed to meet its inflation target, the Fed would have a higher inflation the next year.

“Part of our proposal was that the economy right now needs moderately high inflation,” Sprung-Keyser said. “In fact, although it’s not normally true, right now inflation would be good for the economy.”

Sprung-Keyser auditioned at the beginning of this year and was one of the two freshmen selected to be on the team.

“It allows you to get involved in government monetary policy more than any other activity that I’ve ever participated in,” he said. “It also gives you a sort of experience in economic policy in a way that I never had.”

His final round was the Federal Reserve Board Room where the Board of Governors sits.

“There is a sort of sense of knowing the ways in which stuff actually happens in the real world so you feel somewhat connected to it because of that,” he said. “It was also a great opportunity to meet different professors and to meet people also interested in this stuff.”

To prepare for the competition, Harvard’s team started by researching and reading necessary materials and met with professors to get their advice on their proposal.

 

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