A hedge funder is supporting a free master's degree program in a field that's integral to Wall Street's future.
Igor Tulchinsky, the founder of WorldQuant, a New York-based quantitative hedge fund, founded WorldQuant University last year.
The program offers students a tuition-free two-year education in financial engineering.
"It went live about a year ago, and now we have 600 students who have enrolled from all over the world," Daphne Kis, CEO of WorldQuant University, told Business Insider.
Financial engineering draws from several fields, including computer science, economics, and mathematics. As such, the program's course load, according to the program's site, covers economic theory and statistics and provides students the opportunity to work with programming languages such as Python and MATLAB.
In 2007, Tulchinsky founded WorldQuant LLC, a private institutional investment management firm tied to the $35 billion hedge fund Millennium Management. He had spent 12 years as a portfolio manager at Millennium.
Tulchinsky told Business Insider that the idea for WorldQuant University came to fruition while he was developing WorldQuant.
"As I was developing my primary business, which has 23 offices around the world, it became quite obvious that talent is distributed very uniformly around the world, while opportunity is not," Tulchinsky said. "The most valuable, long-lasting asset you can give an individual is an education."
WorldQuant University says it has students from more than 35 countries, including those across Africa and Asia.
As the digitization of Wall Street continues unabated, more firms will require that talent have coding and technical skills. Hedge funds have been hiring tech experts from Silicon Valley at a clip in recent years, and a degree in financial engineering is a valuable asset on Wall Street.
Financial-engineering professionals are among the highest-paid workers on the Street. The average national salary for a financial engineer is a whopping $102,020, according to the job-search platform Glassdoor.
Fannie Mae, Citadel, and Pimco all have postings on Glassdoor for financial engineers, offering salaries as high as $134,745.
The WorldQuant University faculty includes several former Wall Street quants and is licensed by the Louisiana Board of Regents. Tulchinsky hopes to increase the number of students in the program over time.
"There are many smart, educated people all over the world," he said. "We're designing WQU to be scalable. We want to reach a lot of students."
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