Student-managed investment fund at Oakland University has real stakes - with big money

You can learn a lot in a classroom, but as most journalists will tell you - there is no substitute for hands-on experience. That's the idea behind a student-run investment fund at Oakland University.

Each semester, roughly a dozen students enroll in the class for the chance to analyze stocks and investment opportunities in real time with real money.

It's all thanks to the Kresge Foundation which gives these students access to its $2 million portfolio.

There are plenty of reasons Oakland University students clamor for a chance to enroll in this particular class

"This is the student-managed investment fund," said OU senior Nico Vilotti

A smaller class size allows Assistant Professor Pratik Kothari more one-on-one time with each student. But there is something bigger at play here.

"Every one of the students here have two million reasons to make sure their calculations are correct," said Kothari.

These students are making real-time decisions with real stakes.

Thanks to the Kresge Foundation, a private national foundation based in Detroit, these students are given access to a stock portfolio worth about $2 million to evaluate, and invest.

"What is really nice about this course is you kind of step right into it.  learn a little more so you have that edge," said Vilotti.

"I felt this class would be a good opportunity to get my feet wet to understand what this industry would have, what it is all about, and to get hands-on experience which I know this class has," said Zacchary Jurek, OU senior.

It's a program that started back in the fall of 2015 when the Kresge vice president and OU finance grad Rob Manilla, was looking to bolster a talent pipeline to fill local investment jobs.

"It's about having that experience on your resume," Kothari said.

And as it would turn out, some of the students have jobs waiting for them when they graduate - thanks in part, to this course.

"Pretty much everything that I have learned here, I have applied to my job," said Vilotti.

Going into the real world having handled a $2 million portfolio has its advantages.

FOX 2: "Why is that different than just observing the market without having something physically invested?"

"It gives me that mindset that I have to take care of this and I have to actually make it work and I can't just mess around," Jurek said.

The lessons go beyond just dollars and cents. The students collaborate and decide together what a worthy investment looks like.

"If we think there is some value in the company at the end of the class, we will go and we'll give a presentation and the students will vote."

"We recommend the stocks to Kresge and the execution of the order is up to Kresge," said Kothari. "They know exactly what is in the portfolio every single day."

Think of it like a college final, if the Kresge Investment Office decides to act on the recommendation, that looks pretty good on their next job application.

"It adds to the fact that they know how to manage portfolios and they have actually done it," the assistant professor said.

"I would recommend this class a million times over for anyone who is really interested in wealth management," said Vilotti.

Roughly 31 percent of all higher education institutions offer some kind of student-managed investment fund. Classes like this are offered at local colleges like Michigan State University and University of Michigan.

There are a lot of prerequisite courses that need to be taken prior to enrollment. But as you can see it checks all the boxes if you are looking to get a job with the world of wealth management.