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Illinois school plays market and wins

DECATUR, Ill. — If you could buy good grades at Millikin University, the students in professor Tatiana Isakovski’s class would have a lock on straight A’s.

A 10-strong group of seniors are the financial brains behind what the college calls its Student-Managed Fund. The students were given $100,000 of the school’s cash to invest in the market in August as a learning experience, and the fund recently reported a combined 16 percent return, giving the portfolio a worth of $116,000. It has since grown to $120,000.

The students, however, won’t graduate magna cum laude for beating Wall Street. The stock selection process is part of their grade, but, regardless of whether they win or lose, they are judged on the quality of their due diligence.

The aim is to teach them the skills and art of using analysis, research and number-crunching to decide whether a particular stock or investment is worth the risk.

“I would not say that we are surprised, but it is nice to see that big of a return,” said Holly Probst, 21, a finance major from Newton. “I think we are pretty confident in the work that we do, and we’re confident in our ability.”

Added Brandon Weisenborn, 21, of Columbia: “It’s also a lot more fun than regular class work.”

The students are guided by a seasoned board of advisers and supervised by Isakovski. Student stock picks so far have included pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly, software and hardware developer Oracle and energy company ConocoPhillips, with the students selling Oracle recently.

Should the student portfolio continue to make a nice profit, the professor says there are plans to invest some of the earnings in a trip out to the East Coast to attend a forum where students will get to meet and chat with Wall Street professionals.

“That would be a great opportunity for them to network and talk about jobs,” she said. AP



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