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News In Brief

Site lets students bet on their grades

Daryl Paranada Aug 12, 2010

It’s back-to-school season. And for those college kids who think they can get an A on that biology course or maintain a 3.7 GPA throughout their junior year, a new website may provide a little bit of an incentive.

Ultrinsic.com allows students from 36 college campuses across the U.S. to wager on how well they’ll do during the upcoming semester. And the site will pay you money for achieving or exceeding a certain grade.

“We’re going to help students get better grades and succeed in school,” says Jeremy Gelbart, the site’s co-founder. “This will make the overall school experience more enjoyable, this idea of giving the students their own control over their own rewards and goals.”

The site is billed as “the ultimate destination for students to play, study and win.” Here’s how it works: A student comes to the website, creates a free account, uploads their course history and enters their GPA. He or she then uploads their current schedule, and based on that schedule, they can create various types of incentives — like, say, an A on a certain course or a wager on their overall GPA — that if achieved, can result in cash.

Gelbart, 23, the website’s president, explains it this way: “So, let’s say I’m a B student taking Math 101. I’m shooting for an A, so I choose my target grade, I choose the total cash incentive I want, and then Ultrinsic will calculate how much the student contributes to the incentive and how much Ultrinsic will contribute.”

Students can also hedge against potential failure by buying “grade insurance,” which allows users to pay a premium in order to get coverage in case they don’t meet their targeted incentive.

Ultrinsic calculates how much they will pay students based on a formula that takes into account their academic history, data analysis, and whatever info the site’s researchers can get their hands on. If a student reaches their targeted grade, Ultrinsic will pay them based on the amount it calculated. If not, the student must pay up.

Of course, the site has not come without controversy. Critics say Ultrinsic may encourage students to gamble and that it is has overtones of online gambling.

Gelbart insists the company’s goal is to help students improve their grades, and says his site differs online gambling because Ultrinsic involves skill and winning is “completely within the control of the student.”

Gelbart came up with the idea for Ultrinsic about three years ago with his longtime friend Steven Wolf, 27, while they were attending the University of Pennsylvania.

“I was a student [there] at the time, and Steven and I had an exam the following day and I didn’t want to study,” Gelbart says. “So Steven said to me, ‘How about this, if you get an A on the exam, I’ll give you $100, but if you don’t get an A, you give me $20.'”

Gelbart says he won the bet, and soon realized that their “gamble” was a great way to motivate students to do better in school. From there, the two built on their idea and sought help from advisers, web guys and private investors. Gelbart declined to say how much money he received and from whom, but says there are plans to expand to more campuses later in the year.

What do you think about gambling on your grades? Check out Ultrinsic here. And follow our coverage on the Internet, including the latest on net neutrality, here.

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