LOS ANGELES -- A new website is giving higher education a Vegas twist, allowing college students nationwide to bet on their own grades.
The site, Ultrinsic.com, lets students bet on whether they can achieve or exceed a certain grade, with bets starting at $25.
The student puts up some of the money, and the company fronts the rest -- more for A's, slightly less for B's, and so on. The amount is also moderated by other information like the student's past academic record and the difficulty of the class.
If the student makes the grade, he or she gets to keep all the money. If they fall short of the mark, the company keeps the money the student contributed.
Students can also bet on the fact that they'll fail a class, buying something called "grade insurance."
Ultrinsic will be up and running this month, and, for now, accepts bets from students at 36 colleges across the U.S.
The website has created some controversy, but Ultrinsic insists it isn't encouraging online gambling -- which is illegal in the United States.
Co-founder Jeremy Gelbart says the system is an "investment" for students rather than a "bet," and that it will help students do better by giving them more immediate incentives.
Some educators worry the site will exacerbate so-called "grade grubbing" -- an obsession with letter grades they say is already a problem on college campuses.
That, in turn, could push professors to artificially inflate grades to avoid more nagging from students.
Alexander C. McCormick, director of the National Survey for Student Engagement, says he's also worried that gambling on grades could encourage more cheating.
The site was launched last year at the University of Pennsylvania and New York University.
Some of the schools it will expand to this year include George Washington University, Georgetown University, Howard University and American University.