A new company is offering students the chance to bet on their grades. Ultrinsic was piloted at NYU and UPenn last year. This year it is expanding to 34 additional schools. Students at these schools will be able to bet on what grade they will earn in a particular course or what their overall GPA will be.
An article in the NY Times questions whether or not the site is legal. The question is whether or not the student wagers actually involve skill. The company claims that the outcome of the wager is controlled by the student, since the student has control over how much they study for the course.
Inside Higher Ed writes about the ramifications of using money as an incentive for studying. Some college officials worry that this may increase cheating and provide more fuel to the “grade obsession” fire that exists on college campuses. Others question how this contributes to one of the most important reasons for attending college: to obtain knowledge. With the opportunity to gamble for grades, students are no longer learning for the sake of learning.
The company maintains that they are simply trying to improve student grade performance by providing a much needed incentive. But how will the company handle students who don’t, or even can’t, pay their debt if the desired grades are not achieved? If a student does not meet their goal one semester will it force them to place riskier bets on their grades the next?
Providing incentives for good grades is not a new concept, however there is usually a “nothing to loose” clause for students. If Mom and Dad offer to pay $20 for each “A” earned, the student does not have to pay up if they don’t quite reach that goal. It will be interesting to see how Ultrinsic contributes to student debt. That experience may be the tough lesson learned.