August 11, 2010
A website called Ultrinsic is encouraging students to do better in school. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ultrinsic allows students to make a bet on how well they will do in a class. The student decides how much to wager--the starting limit is $25 and increases with use--and Ultrinsic puts up the rest. If the student makes the grade, he or she wins it all. If the student does not, he or she loses what they put in.
Jeremy Gelbart, president of Ultrinsic, told The Bellingham Herald, "The point of the site is to push yourself." He added that, "Students like learning, but it's work. People want to see an immediate payoff for that hard work."
According to NJ.com, students register with the site, place a bet, called an "incentive", and give the company access to their official school records. Ultrinsic then calculates the odds based on various factors, including the student's class schedule, college history and the difficulty of the class and subject matter. The Bellingham Herald added that the site offers two ways to bet: "rewards", which is dependent on the actual grade a student earns in a particular class or "grade insurance", which allows students to bet that they will fail a class.
Fast Company reported that Ultrinsic did a pilot program with the University of Pennsylvania and New York University last year. One student won $150. The highest reward, however, is reserved for college bound high school students. In this case, high school students can bet $20 that they'll earn a 4.0 GPA. If they succeed, they'll walk away with $2,000.
The company is expanding to 36 more colleges and, according to The Bellingham Herald, the founders are expecting about 100 students per new college to enroll.
While Gelbart insisted that the site is "more motivator than moneymaker", some higher education experts disapproved of the idea. "This is not what real education is about," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director at the American Association of Registrars and Admissions Officers.
Others have raised issues about the site's legality, questioning whether the site is a form of online gambling which is still illegal in the U.S., reported The Chronicle of Higher Education. Gelbart argued that Ultrinsic is not considered gambling because the bets students make are dependent on skill, not chance. "It's completely within their control what grades they get. If you study harder, you'll do well," he said. Lloyd D. Levenson, a gaming attorney with the Cooper-Levenson firm in Atlantic City, told NJ.com that the only thing that is not within a student's control is how a teacher might evaluate. He did, however, add that "for the most part, [students are] in control of [their] own destiny".
Steven Wolf, Ultrinsic CEO, stated that the company did not experience any resistance during its pilot program with Penn and NYU. Students, on the other hand, seem to have mixed feelings. Liz Raiman, a junior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick which is on the list of schools set to grant students access to Ultrinsic this year, said, "I wouldn't use that site. I find that in some of the classes I think I'm going to get good grades in, I don't, and vice versa. I'm not going to risk my money as a college student."
Roy Anderson, a senior who majors in engineering at Rutgers University, said, "When money is involved, everything is more interesting."
In The Bellingham Herald, Nassirian pointed out, "By [Ultrinsic's] logic, you should buy a hit on yourself. Would that motivate you to do well?"
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"College students bet on their own academic success," bellinghamherald.com, August 10, 2010, Matt Flegenheimer
"Gamble on Your Grades With the Ultrinsic Website," fastcompany.com, August 10, 2010, Addy Dugdale
"Ultrinsic college grades betting website expands to Rutgers, Princeton students," NJ.com, August 10, 2010, Bob Considine & Meredith Galante
"Web Site Lets Students Bet on What Grades They'll Earn," chronicle.com, August 10, 2010, Sophia Li