Slow economy has students looking for quick cash
Gambling isn’t just limited to casinos and racetracks anymore. With the slow recovery of the economy, many students are forced to find alternative means to make extra cash.
Students on 36 college campuses now have the opportunity to attach financial incentives to their studies through Ultrinsic.com, a web-based incentive program designed to motivate students to improve their grades. With an estimated 6,500 users, the site allows students to place wagers on their classes for profits.
The ranks of colleges that take advantage of the site include University of California-Berkeley, Stanford University, Harvard University and Princeton University.
“What we have done with Ultrinsic is created a system of incentives for students to allow them to invest in their ability to achieve a certain grade and when they achieve that grade we reward them with a cash incentive on top of receiving their original investment,” said Judah Guber, Chief Operating Officer of Ultrinsic, in an interview with Columbia University. “This helps remove one of the large barriers students have to studying and staying motivated over the course of long semesters of college by giving them rewards on a much more immediate basis.”
Once the site has a student’s official records, Ultrinsic uses an algorithm to calculate the odds of achieving certain grades based on factors such as past academic performance and class difficulty.
Use of the site is considered legal due to vague federal and state laws. Ultrinsic is not classified as illegal online gambling because it differentiates itself as a game of skill rather than a game of chance.
The site also allows students to purchase insurance to protect their investment in case they fail to reach their expected goals. If a student bets that he or she will earn a B+ or higher in a given course, yet expects their cumulative GPA will drop, they can use the semester insurance to cover the GPA drop.
To enroll, students register online and upload a copy of their schedule. Once the site has a student’s official records, Ultrinsic uses an algorithm to calculate the odds of achieving certain grades based on factors such as past academic performance and class difficulty. Upon completion of the semester, students must forward an official transcript to Ultrinsic for verification.
Jeremy Gelbart, CEO of Ultrinsic, recognizes the potential his site has for struggling students. “The site gives students the chance to help pay for college expenses, while at the same time making learning more enjoyable,” Gelbart said. “Ultrinsic can also help students recognize the benefits of a good GPA when trying to secure a good job.”
Aside from the job market, a solid GPA may help undergraduates gain acceptance into graduate programs, which have become more selective due to the economy. As reported by U.S. News and World Report, graduate schools are rejecting more qualified students due to the increasing number of applications.
Ultrinsic is not classified as illegal online gambling because it differentiates itself as a game of skill rather than a game of chance.
However, the site has not been warmly welcomed by all college campuses. A Stanford University spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal that school officials were “appalled” upon hearing of student involvement.
Associate General Counsel and in-house attorney for Indiana University, Beth Cate sent a cease and desist letter to CEO Steve Wolf for violating university policies against sharing of academic credentials.
Ultrinsic counters that the site does not require students to forward their personal login information. Students have the option to provide Ultrinsic with access to their school’s account, or provide official copies of their transcripts, according to Gelbart.
Colin Schloss – a business major at the University of Pennsylvania – earned $156 in winnings from the site by wagering $50 on two courses and $56 that his GPA would fall below 3.9, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The site plans on expanding its market to more students in the future.
“We don’t work with the schools. We work directly with the student. So far, we are using the 36 campuses as a pilot program before we expand to more campuses,” Gelbart said. “If we see that a certain school has received several requests, we will add the school to the program.”
By Jonathan Torres
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