By Jessica Toonkel Reuters.comMaryland finance students pick pen over protestsNovember 15, 2011The students in professor Joseph Rinaldi’s class are usuallybusy studying bond yield spreads and interest rate changes.This year Rinaldi had a bigger test for the class: Solve the $15trillion national deficit.“Given the mood of the country today and the seriousnessof the problem, I threw them this New Deal type of project,”Rinaldi said.So while public policy assignments are commonplace in po-litical science and graduate level economics courses, thesefinance majors at the University of Maryland began cram-ming on unlikely topics like prison reform and new immigra-tion policies.Debates on the legalization of medical marijuana became a For example, the paper proposes offering a tax credit for firmspart of their “Futures, Options & Derivatives” class. that switch to natural gas tractor-trailers or buses, he said.For the group of 60 students the paper represented an op- Another unique suggestion in the paper, although Mulraineportunity to voice what they saw as wrong in today’s govern- wasn’t sure he agreed with it, would be to put a morato-ment — and hopefully a chance to participate in a productive rium on all Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley regulation andalternative to Wall Street protests that have risen nation- healthcare reform that have not yet been implemented to al-wide, and which were just broken up by police in New York low small businesses to prosper.early on Tuesday. “Delaying the implementation of these regulations could ini-“The Occupy Wall Street is a good movement, but it’s unsure tially help save approximately $43 billion for the next coupleof what their actual priorities are. I support it, but I am not go- of years,” according to the paper.ing to protest,” said Seth Rabinovitz, 22, a senior majoring inaccounting and finance. And, of course, no college paper would be complete without mentioning legalizing pot. The paper suggests that legalizing“With this paper we are hoping as a group to tackle some of marijuana for medical purposes could bring in tax revenues ofthe core issues underlying our country’s economic problems,” up to $100 billion dollars annually.he said. The paper overall is “a valiant effort,” Mulraine said. But evenOver the past two months, the class met inside and outside more important than the proposals themselves, is what it saysof the classroom, spending long hours working on ideas to about the state of public sentiment that a derivatives and fu-reduce the deficit. They even met with high-ranking former tures class taking on such a big problem as the national debt,military officials to discuss how military reform could reduce Mulraine said.the deficit. “This is emblematic of the discussion that is going on nation-In the end, the class came up with an 11-page paper proposing ally over the kitchen table across the country,” Mulraine said.solutions such as offering illegal immigrants who have livedin the U.S. for three years access to temporary work permits. For many of these students, the paper isn’t just an intellectualAnother ideas was to allow nonviolent criminals the option to exercise. It’s a call to address a situation that will affect theirenlist in the military instead of being imprisoned. lives once they graduate.While the paper touches on some more traditional approach- “I am lucky enough to have a job offer, but the current state ofes to fixing the deficit, such as tax reform and changing en- the market still scares the hell out of me,” said James Fayal,titlement programs, it offered other novel ideas, said Millan 21, a finance major.Mulraine, senior U.S. macro strategist at TD Securities. (Editing by Walden Siew) Reprinted with permission from Reuters. Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. For more information about reprints from Reuters, please contact PARS International Corp. at 212-221-9595 x426.