Recently, the inducements have included a wrinkle called the "exploding bonus," an offer of a specific amount--usually $5,000 to $10,000--if a much sought-after student signs with a firm before a certain date. If the student waits, the bonus disappears, or explodes.
University officials object to such offers. Some schools, such as Harvard, have rules against them, saying they don't give students time to consider their options.
Students considering offers are concerned, said Samuel L. Hayes III, professor of investment banking at Harvard. "I have a steady stream of students coming through my office . . . asking me, 'Do you think X firm or Y firm is clean?' " said Hayes. "I don't think most of the students make the extrapolation from alleged wrongdoing of individuals in order to paint a whole firm black . . . but they are raising questions."
In a survey of students at Duke's Fuqua School, 87% of the respondents said they believed that insider trading occurs routinely.
"They have confidence in their own ethical standards," said Chris Duke, 27, an MBA student at Fuqua.
Investment banking firms named in the investigations are reluctant to talk about their recruiting practices. Those that have not been named are cautious because, they said, no one knows who might be next.
A number of students who had accepted or were considering job offers from Wall Street firms also declined to be interviewed, citing concerns that something they might say could affect those offers. One student from a top business school was advised by the investment banking firm where he will work not to talk to a reporter, or, if he did, not to mention the firm's name.
MBA students also are sensitive to questions about the scandal and the greed of those who have been convicted of law violations--several of whom had salaries and bonuses of more than $1 million a year, apart from any profits earned from illegal insider trading.
"Business students get a bad rap, being (portrayed as) aggressive, money-hungry kids" said the University of Chicago's Douville. "It's not that. They're goal-oriented people who want to accomplish something . . . and be rewarded for that."
Students are quick to point out that the large starting salaries and bonuses that many of them will earn in their first year are for jobs that often require 110 hours a week in highly stressful situations.
Still, they are not deterred by the pressures. "It's a pretty sexy business right now. Lots of big salaries, lots of big deals," said Lee Seward, 27, a Darden student.