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Cashing in on your classes

In college, penny pinching is a way of life. But at the University, even poor students can aim for riches with the not-so-novel concept of investing.

With the philosophy "learn now, the sooner the better," Commerce Prof. Karin Bonding helps the average University student plow the path to sound investment in her popular class, COMM 273: Personal Investment Analysis.

"Most people spend more time planning their vacations than they do managing their money," Bonding said.

At the wee hour of 8 a.m. every Monday and Wednesday, sleepy-eyed students - many with little or no investing experience - crowd into Monroe 130 to hear what Bonding has to say.

"I took the class because I didn't know anything about investing and wanted to," fourth-year College student Courtney Colbert said, "It is the most valuable and useful class I have ever taken."

  • Investing for Dummies 101
  • But how does a class on investing draw the penniless student in?

    The answer is simple. It targets "students who plan to make money but don't know what to do with it," Bonding said.

    Bonding uses frequent class discussions to involve every member of her section. On Wednesday the class went over the basics of portfolio construction.

    With familiar cliches such as "Don't put all your eggs in one basket," Bonding discussed the importance of diversification along with having a clear monetary objective in forming one's portfolio.

    When structuring the course, she takes her class's makeup into consideration.

    "Some students are math-challenged because they are philosophy or history majors, so I do my best to stay away from lots of numbers," she said.

    With the help of professors such as Bonding, students who never before have been aware of the possibilities of investing suddenly are stirred wide awake.

    "A minority of the class invested prior to taking this course, but the majority didn't know about investing," Colbert said.

    Since enrolling in Bonding's class, Colbert has taken an active interest in her portfolio. She checks stock prices on Yahoo, consults with her father on the status of her mutual funds and even boasts she "decided to buy Microsoft because it hit a big low."

    Similar to Colbert, fourth-year Engineering student Josh Jones found himself in unfamiliar territory when he enrolled in Bonding's class.

    "The class gives people ideas about places to start," Jones said. "I just started investing, but now I try to keep an idea of what is going on in the market each day."

    Many of Bonding's students are just discovering the subtleties of investing, but every once in a while there's someone who has a flair for investing that predates high school, let alone college.

    Fourth-year College student Benjamin Levy is one of those rarities. "I started investing in 1989, in middle school," Levy said. "My parents suggested that I learn about investing, so I invested some money from my grandparents, with my cousin as my stockbroker ... My first stock was Disney."

    Now Levy looks toward diversifying his portfolio as well as long-term strength in diversification. "I look for long-term stocks like Coca-Cola and Home Depot, stocks that do well on the long haul. I think it's better to keep a stock for a long-term goal," he said.

    Long term or short term, students everywhere have the ability to invest in their future, as students in COMM 273 learn every week.

    But getting into the class is not always so easy. The 90-person section fills up quickly, leaving many knowledge-hungry students out in the cold.

    "I think that it is a mistake that the University is limiting [COMM 273] to 90 people, because it is in the University's best interest to make sure students know how to invest properly," Levy said. "I highly recommend that the University makes this course more available to students. The University should encourage all students to take it."

    Students like Levy - as well as members of Bonding's class - work to combat the idea that investment is a concept of the future and the post-collegiate world. Students even can take advantage of the market by choosing with knowledge.

    And according to the catchy title of an article in the COMM 273 syllabus, whether you seek "Thinner Thighs of a Fatter Portfolio: All You Really Need is Self Discipline"