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Would You Gamble on Your Grades? Would You Gamble on Your Grades?

Would You Gamble on Your Grades?

by Nikhil Swaminathan

August 21, 2010

Some parents motivate kids by paying them for earning good grades on their report cards. Those sorts of arrangements often dissolve by college. Money, however, can be a great motivator. At least, that's what the young entrepreneurs who started Ultrinsic are betting on: that college students will essentially want to gamble for grades.

Well, if you think about it, they're really gambling on themselves, since, ultimately, they're in total control of what they earn. 

Here's how it works: Say, you're a C student taking an intro physics class and you'd like to earn a B+ in the class. Well, start an account on Ultrinsic, enter your GPA, and the site will essentially assign odds to your quest (yep, like a bookie). Say, you put in $20, and the site will pay you $100, if you succeed.

Ultrinsic is offered to students at 36 universities, including Harvard, Stanford, NYU, Penn State, and even Brigham Young University. There's some debate about whether this sort of incentive will work to boost performance in college, according to a Wall Street Journal article

Research in K-12 schools has shown that paying for grades isn't all that successful at boosting test scores. But paying for behavioral changes, such as paying students to read more books, can increase scores.

Brian Jacob, a professor of economics and education policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said that, while there is no conclusive evidence that paying for good grades will raise achievement, he noted that Ultrinsic could provide a "small" inventive to college students because they were putting down their own cash. 

Given that the bets discussed in most of the articles are somewhat low stakes, I wonder about the effectiveness of this scheme. I am not sure there's anything more effective that being a work-study student, actually toiling to pay for education (which should make you work harder to make it more worthwhile, right?)

Do you think Ultrinsic is onto something? (If you need more info, here's an appearance by one of its founders on Fox Business Channel.)

Photo via.

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