Offering monetary incentives for good grades is somewhat controversial. Neither researchers, parents, teachers, nor students can agree on whether it improves student achievement or whether it sends "the wrong message" about what knowledge is "worth."
But Ultrinsic is a new company that's betting -- quite literally -- that money and grades can make for a profitable online venture. This fall, Ultrinsic will offer students at 36 universities the ability to place bets on the grades they'll earn. And based on the odds and the eventual outcome, students can cash out on their report cards.
Students submit their transcripts to Ultrinsic when they join the site. Ultrinsic uses that history to calculate the odds for students' current course load. Students can place bets on getting certain grades, and at the end of the term, they submit their grades to Ultrinsic to verify their winnings.
Ultrinsic's received a fair amount of press -- Time, The Chronicle, Huffington Post. These articles all address the question of the site's legality -- and it is legal, claims Ultrinsic CEO Steven Wolf, since grades involve skill, the transactions count as wagers, not gambling.
Wolf says that "students have 100 percent control" over their grades, and what Ultrinsic is really offering is merely a version of that financial incentive we've long offered kids.