Markets in everything

by on September 22, 2013 at 10:22 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

University of Toronto students desperate for scarce seats in fully booked classrooms are offering cash to classmates willing to give up a spot, turning registration into a bidding war.

“$100 to whomever drops (History of Modern Espionage),” posted Christopher Grossi on Facebook Tuesday. “I really need this course.”

The third-year history student said the 180-person course filled up before his designated registration time. After talking to the professor without success, he said offering money was his last chance to coax someone to trade with him.

Here is more information, and supposedly, after some point in the process, a near-simultaneous drop and add will in fact allow the trade to take place.

For the pointer I thank Larry Deck.

1 radical centrist blogger September 22, 2013 at 10:43 am

yes, markets to make the little people work harder for less, but no markets to allow the little people to have more control over those at the top.

Ever notice that?

here is a market-oriented idea: a few states allow recall of elected politicians and allow the people to put their own laws on the ballot.

Why not more discussion in the mainstream media of spreading these ‘markets for the little people’ to more states and to the federal government?

Remember, markets for thee, but not for me.

2 Todd September 22, 2013 at 10:45 am

a bribe for access to a class on modern espionage? i would say both of these students have demonstrated a clear grasp of the material and they merit testing out of the course with credit received. extra credit if the payoff was filmed so that the professor could go back to the paying student later for more money/information.

3 Mark Thorson September 22, 2013 at 10:48 am

How would Tyler handle this for his own classes? Dutch auction all of the seats?

4 Mark Thorson September 22, 2013 at 10:50 am

Of course, in posting this Tyler is either signalling he wants a piece of the action, or he’s soliciting clever schemes from the commentariat.

5 Yancey Ward September 22, 2013 at 10:58 am

I have a clever scheme- a really, really clever scheme-to profit off of this problem, and will sell it to the first person to send me $1,000 dollars.

6 Thor September 23, 2013 at 11:21 am

A bit ridiculous, as Tyler could gate/charge for access to this blog,yet he doesn’t. So your implication is incorrect. Or perhaps you were just being snide?

7 Mark Thorson September 23, 2013 at 11:58 pm

If he were to charge for the blog, he’d have to be public about that. But if a suitable scheme with airtight plausible deniability were to present itself, perhaps using Yancey as a cut-out, well then . . .

8 Yancey Ward September 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

Of course, should this special market start to take off, you will see popular courses signed up by students who have zero interest in actually taking them.

9 Brandon Berg September 22, 2013 at 11:06 am

I was explicitly and strictly forbidden to do this when I floated the idea past an advisor several years ago. Maybe I should have tried the “beg forgiveness” approach.

Actually, someone dropped anyway, so I guess not.

10 Jimbino September 22, 2013 at 11:29 am

Christopher Gross needs an English class where he can learn to say, “$100 to WHOEVER drops….”

11 Nikki September 22, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Wrong: it’s the object, not the subject, therefore whom: the guy will pay $100 to him/her, not to he/she. In other news, you’ve misspelled his surname.

12 Curt F. September 23, 2013 at 12:27 am

You’re right about the surname, but that’s about it.

She will kick he *whom reads the book.
She will kick he who reads the book.
She will kick *him who reads the book.
She will kick *him *whom reads the book.

Even though he/him is the object in all of those sentences, it’s right to say “he who” instead of the other alternatives. That’s because its the case of the subordinate clause that controls whether to use he/him and who/whom. And in “$100 to whomever drops (History of Modern Espionage),” no person is being dropped, so the ‘whomever’ is agrammatical.

That’s if you believe in this prescriptivist stuff anyway. But if you do, you better get it right.

13 Nikki September 23, 2013 at 1:38 am

Would you mind pointing me in the direction of a reputable source that says we should be guided by the case of the subordinate clause here? In view of your apparent disbelief in apostrophes where apostrophes are due, I hesitate to take you word for it.

14 Marie September 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

We’re supposed to laugh at the idea that he “really needs” that course, right?

15 Thor September 23, 2013 at 11:19 am

Maybe he has planned a career in espionage?

16 Dylan September 22, 2013 at 11:44 am

Ten comments in, no one has actually clicked through the link yet to report it’s about Venezuelan toilet paper.

17 Todd September 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm
18 david September 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Tyler playing a joke on his commenters.

19 prior_approval September 22, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Or just a preview of the next Assorted links section.

20 derek September 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Same thing. Goverment sets the price of something too low, there is a shortage of supply, and the price gets bid up in an underground market. This has been an issue in many provinces; socialist governments promise low or free tuition, and for various reasons, don’t fund the colleges to meet demand. So the quality goes down, the seats are limited.

21 Careless September 22, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I was in a class that people offered $200 for spots in, apparently. The school required students to take two short term classes, which meant that people typically took one or two that was purely elective. This particular class met tues/Weds/Thurs, only in the afternoon, and involved watching movies.

Basically, students were paying cash on top of tuition so they could waste time and be lazy. Ah, college.

22 Doug September 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm

There should be a centralized traded market for class positions through the add/drop period. Then we could watch the price of classes float for various developments in the first few classes. Like what’s the direction and magnitude of the price move when the syllabus is first handed-out. If the professor is hung-over the first day does the price rise figuring that he’ll be lazy and laid-back, or fall based on his grumpiness Do prices move more in response to exam or homework requirements? There’s a goldmine of research to be done here.

23 Chip September 22, 2013 at 7:27 pm

UofT is a publicly funded university. I shudder to think that taxpayers are subsidizing 180 students (in one class!) to study something they could pick up from a little bedtime reading.

Why don’t we just send them for barista training and be done with it.

24 Careless September 22, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Starbucks abolished that about a decade ago.

25 Nahim September 23, 2013 at 4:20 am

I was a student at the National University of Singapore, and we actually have a Vickrey auction for allocating courses. At the start of the semester, each student is given a fixed endowment of bidding points, and has to participate in a sealed-bid (online) auction to earn a seat in any given course. As an economics major I had a lot of fun taking part, but most people complained bitterly about it. At the same time, the system probably was superior to alternative systems (e.g. first-come first-served, which is effectively equivalent to server crashes and stressed-out admins).

Some interesting observations:
1) Most people liked to bid nice numbers like 50, 100. So a winning strategy during my freshman year was to bid slightly over multiples of 10 e.g. 51, 101 etc. By the time I graduated, the students I was competing with had become more sophisticated so it was necessary to bid several points higher than the nice round numbers e.g. 54, 104.
2) A particular source of inefficiency was that older students typically had accumulated bag-loads of points that they’d dump on modules they did not really need, at the expense of freshmen who badly needed the modules. Almost a metaphor for any society in which the rich have too much money and the poor none at all!

26 quantmeister September 23, 2013 at 10:04 am

Many moons ago my alma mater went through a similar dynamic … upperclassmen, especially seniors, were registering for dozens/hundreds of credits, concentrating on courses (for underclassmen) that were anticipated to be highly demanded. Markets were cleared in a computer lab — you pay me $50 (or whatever) and I’ll drop just as you’re going to try to register. The university put a stop to it by limiting (to something like 21 or 24) the number of credits any one student could register for.

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