University challenge teaches investment to student


Photo courtesy of Garrett Pauley

Left to right, Dean Jim Dahl with University Challenge winners Ryan Hanley, Garrett Adamson, and Matthew Schrock on Dec. 14, 2017.

By Cori Lippert, Staff Writer


A University challenge testing students’ investment abilities with a million dollars is currently running from Feb. 1 to April 30.

The challenge was brought to University students in 2015 and takes place every semester.

In 1995, finance professor Elisabeth Oltheten created a financial literacy program and software system for area high school students. Twenty years later, she brought it to the University.

“The way it works (is) every student gets a million dollars in an online brokerage account, and they can buy and sell stocks,” Oltheten said. “We use (a) real process, but it is fake money.”

Oltheten said the University challenge uses UISES, the University of Illinois Securities Exchange Simulation, to run the program. After contestants sign up and log in with their University ID, they then decide on a corporate name.

Competitors can place orders every day up until 3 p.m., Oltheten said. At 3 p.m., the market closes and all trades are made at that time. The person at the end of the challenge that has made the most money wins.

“The idea is to get a feeling of comfort and familiarity with the system before you have to go and do it in real life. And while it was relevant in 1995, it is even more relevant now,” Oltheten said.

There are other challenges to the financial literacy program, she said. The Cozad prize gives money to teams that decide to compete. The team that has made the most money gets $500, and the team with the most participants also gets $500.

Oltheten said the first-place individual wins $100, second place gets $50 and third place gets $25.

According to Bankrate, “33 percent of millennials say that they own stock, compared to 51 percent of Gen Xers (ages 36-51) and 48 percent of Baby Boomers (ages 52-70).”

Vidur Raghuraman, senior in Business, said his entire business fraternity, Phi Chi Theta, participates in the challenge.

“We have a portfolio to manage and try to get everyone in the fraternity to sign up for the University challenge to get as many valid accounts as we can, so we can earn the $500 and invest it into our portfolio,” Raghuraman said.

Phi Chi Theta has been participating in the challenge for five semesters now, he said.

“It’s a great opportunity for everyone to expand their financial knowledge; even if they have no prior, it’s a really useful way to introduce themselves to it,” Raghuraman said. “I’m glad I’ve been able to be a part of it for so long.”

Oltheten said every student should invest every semester, so by the time they are seniors they are ready to invest their own money.

“Everybody should be able to read and write, do basic math and function in a modern economy, and that includes investing,” Oltheten said.

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