If you’re in college, you know how hard it can be to find motivation to study. Enter Ultrinsic.com, a website that lets you “bet” on your grades. Here’s how it works: You set a target grade for a single course, multiple courses, or a semester’s GPA and then you lay down money “betting” that you will hit that mark. If you make the grade, you get your money back plus an amount that Ultrinsic also puts in. If you don’t make the grade, you lose your money. Ultrinsic reviews your official transcript to validate your wins and losses, so you do have share a good bit of personal information and you can’t cheat.
While some people call this gambling, Ultrinsic prefers to think of it as incentivizing students to study harder. It’s a way of rewarding students for hard work and giving them motivation to study. The idea is that if you have money riding on the grades, you’ll be more inclined to study to avoid losing your stake and to win the bet. Some even argue that it’s not much different from having a job. You work, you get paid. You don’t work, you don’t get paid.
Of course, many in higher education see it differently. Learning should be about learning for learning’s sake and not about money, some say. (But if you’ve ever been in college, you know that sometimes the joy of learning isn’t enough, particularly in courses that are boring.) The distraction of the bet might be counterproductive, too. If a student is too focused on the money, they may get too stressed or panic and jeopardize their performance.
There’s also the obvious problem of playing with money you can’t afford to lose or that could be better spent on books or food. Like any gambling addict, a student may find themselves placing bets they have no hope of achieving and losing money that is needed elsewhere. Even if you can hit the target you set, you have to remember that the payout will not come until the end of the semester. It’s not like betting on horses or playing poker where you’re paid immediately when you win. The payoff at Ultrinsic is many months in the future. If you need the money immediately, this isn’t the way to go.
So far, the site has avoided being shut down because it does not meet the standard applied to gambling websites. Gambling involves chance and luck; Ultrinsic is skill based. Because the students control whether or not they make the grade it can’t technically be called gambling, at least not as the law currently defines gambling websites. Even if there are factors beyond the student’s control (a vindictive professor, for example), Ultrinsic is not like roulette, slots, or blackjack where the player has no control over the outcome. However, there are many who argue that the site is gambling at heart and is only skirting a technicality in the law.
Ultrinsic is only available at select schools right now, but is expanding. It is also currently only available to undergrads, so graduate students are out of luck for now. It’s up to you to decide whether Ultrinisc is something you want to play with. It might be fun for one course that you know you have a reasonable chance of acing, but if you start betting on every course, every semester, you could be heading for trouble.