photo by conorwithonen
There is a new service available for to students of certain colleges and universities. The ability to gamble on your grades! That’s right, you enter certain information, see the odds that they give you, and place your bet! There is always a controversy surrounding students gambling, and in this case, there is no difference.
Students Gambling: Cash for Grades?
The website “Ultrinsic” allows you to set up financial incentives that are tied to your achievement in school. They currently are set up with 36 of the top schools in the nation (including my alma-mater), so this is definitely something to be taken seriously!
According to the site:
To participate in Ultrinsic, all a student does is log into their account at the beginning of each semester and choose the course they are registered for.
Based on the student’s academic history, and the amount they choose to invest in their ability to reach that target grade, a cash reward will be calculated for the student.
This is to ensure that everyone has a fair chance of winning I mean achieving their goals. If you are a C-student and are taking a class that has been difficult in the past, then your target will be set lower than someone on the Dean’s List who is taking a very easy subject.
Hopefully, as you go through the semester, you will be able to maintain your focus by thinking of that prize – or at least the money that you stand to lose!
When the semester is over, the student sends in their official transcript and Ultrinsic will verify their win and credit their account with the winnings.
So even though, the idea is to provide the student with the necessary motivation to succeed in class, I’m sure that many people will immediately have a problem with this and see it as nothing more than students gambling.
Promoting Online Gambling?
When asked how he came up with the idea, one of the co-founders (Jeremy Gelbart) had this to say:
While hanging out together one Sunday afternoon, I mentioned to my friend Steven Wolf that I had an exam the following day and that if I were to study I was sure to get an A. (At the time, I was a student at University of Pennsylvania.) But I was enjoying my Sunday afternoon, and I told Steven that I had no intention of studying.
That’s when, in order to provide me with motivation, we made the following agreement: If I got an A on the exam, he would give me $100, and if I didn’t get an A, I would give him $20. Steven and I quickly realized that lots of other students might like this kind of motivation. To that end, we began developing what is now Ultrinsic Motivator Inc.
Some will see this as gambling which, of course, is illegal over the internet. I mean, you’re basically signing up with the service and betting on your grades. If you hit your target you get X, if you don’t, then you lose Y. However, there are a few differences between this and traditional gambling. NJ.com ran a story on Ultrinsic as well, and in it stated the following:
“But it’s not gambling if it’s about skill and it’s not about luck,” said Lloyd D. Levenson, a gaming attorney with the Cooper-Levenson firm in Atlantic City. “Gambling has to have the element of chance. The only variable that doesn’t have to do with skill is how a teacher might evaluate. But for the most part, you’re in control of your own destiny.”
I tend to agree with this evaluation (as if a gambling attorney needs my validation about gambling). These kids are not putting down money and then hoping for an outcome that is completely out of their control. They are just saying, “as extra motivation, if I don’t get at least a ‘B’ in this class, I’ll give you $25; but I get $75 if I do”. This is very different than most common occurrences of students gambling.
This is no different than people who want to lose weight and so they pool their money together and the “biggest loser” takes the prize! Or if someone vows to give away $500 to a charity if they can’t quit smoking in 3 months. This sort of monetary motivation happens all the time.
Is this really that different than a parent promising a child money for good grades? You hope that the promise of cash will be enough to motivate them to work harder in school; and if they don’t, you take away something fun (or even withhold allowance) as a consequence.
Cheapens the Education Process?
Ideally, these students are in college because they want to broaden their minds, or they want intense training and access to research. The chance to learn from the top professionals and researchers in a particular field should be motivation enough for these students!
To have these students now focus on money as the end result of their studying will cheapen this experience. It will take away from their lofty goals of a “higher education”!
Wow, it took a lot to write that without laughing . We all know that the vast majority of students in college are there because they feel as though it’s the only way to compete in the job market. Most students strive for A’s because they know that their GPA will have a lot to do with them landing a job out of college. So, I don’t see a problem in students challenging themselves to do better, and actually backing up their goals with cash!
Something Great for All?
I think that the concept behind Ultrinsic has the potential to do good for all involved. However, I don’t know exactly how they profit, besides having a large number of students fail to meet their goals; so it’s a little scary to imagine what they will have to come up with next in order to become/remain profitable.
They published a statement about this experience that makes a lot of sense:
The student will have completed a semester of college, achieved the highest possible grades, and received a cash bonus. Can’t think of many better ways to conclude a semester than that!
Ultrinsic incentives are beneficial because they motivate students to succeed in school. Notwithstanding if the student won the incentive or not, if the student tried harder and improved their academic standings even slightly, the experience was well worth it.
I guess we’ll see how well this holds true in the future.
- Do you think this is a good idea?
- Would you consider this to be gambling?
- If this service existed when you were in college, would you participate?
- If you are currently in college, will you or do you attach financial incentives to your grades?
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