Gambling on grades

How much is an A in biology worth? Ten dollars? Twenty? Fifty?

If you ever thought you’d score a better grade if money were on the line, you’re in luck. Ultrinsic.com, a website that allows students to bet on their grades, is expanding to GW and 33 other schools this year.

The site allows students to pick a payout for getting a particular grade and then requires students to bet a portion of that amount at the beginning of the semester. If the student meets or exceeds his or her goal, Ultrinsic returns the initial investment and matches the payout.

As with any gamble, the risk of losing the initial investment exists.

“If you don’t get the grade, you lose it,” says Jeremy Gelbart, who cofounded Ultrinsic with his college friend, Steven Wolf. “If we gave students their money back, then it wouldn’t be a good incentive. Hopefully if they lose their money this time, they’ll do better next semester.”

A demo on the website displays the course list for a student taking four classes and allows users to test out the Ultrinsic process. For instance, if students wanted to make $50 for getting a 3.7 GPA or higher, the student would have to put down $25 at the beginning of the semester.

A student’s offer, however, depends on a formula that includes difficulty of classes, the student’s personal academic history, the amount of courses a student is taking and other factors.

For now the payouts for GW students aren’t huge, no matter how well they do.

“There are limits in place based on the amount of incentives [a student] is making and whether it’s [the student’s] first semester in the program,” Gelbart said. “You could probably make up to $300 or $400 this semester, but next semester, after we get to know the schools, we’ll increase the maximums.”

As for the legality of students gambling on their grades, Ultrinsic sought out Catania Gaming Consultants to make sure everything they were doing was legal.

The GW Law School has caught wind of the new gambling program and has no policy against it, according to Greg Maggs, the senior associate dean for academic affairs of the GW Law School.

“It’s interesting to see the creation of incentives to do better,” Maggs said. “But I don’t know if it’s effective or professionally appropriate.”

GW seniors Dani Nesmith said she’s turned off by the idea of gambling itself, and believes that her solid academic history would hurt her chances.

“I could use the extra money, but I could probably make more money submitting my notes,” she said.

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