KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) -- Fifteen Western Michigan University business students are charged with investing $500,000 this semester, and it's not Monopoly money.
Financial analyst Len Harrison is teaching the students and calls them his "junior analysts."
The students will do research on companies and recommend what investments to make, retain or sell. The $500,000 comes from the WMU Foundation, which reported holdings of $211 million in June 2008.
"They're going to find this very valuable. It's real life, real money," Harrison told the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Harrison is a chartered financial analyst, a principal at Portage-based LVM Capital Management Ltd. and a member of the foundation's investment committee.
The students will have to present and defend their research to the investment committee, as well as to their classmates, Harrison and an investment advisory committee of professors and donors.
Buy, sell and hold decisions will be made by a vote of the students.
"The way really I'm approaching this is the kids really have to do the work," said Harrison.
Giving students hands-on experience during tough financial times is a valuable lesson in itself, said Judy Swisher, chairwoman of Western Michigan's Department of Finance and Commercial Law.
"These are historical times we're living in," Swisher said. "They're seeing the worst at this point. So they'll learn from it, I'm sure."
Harrison said the students will act as the "large-cap manager" of the portfolio, investing only in companies that have a market value of stock that is at least $5 billion and considered less risky.
Eventually, the plan is to expose students enrolled in the course to a broader range of investment types. To do so, the college plans to raise an additional $500,000 to increase the fund to $1 million.