Berkeley markets in everything

Multiple students on campus have offered to pay their classmates to drop out of classes they are waitlisted for, raising concerns about over-enrollment and advising.

Campus sophomore David Wang reposted a screenshot on the Overheard at UC Berkeley Facebook page showing a post by a Haas senior in their final semester before going abroad offering to pay $100 to the first five students to drop UGBA 102B, “Introduction to  Managerial Accounting.” The student in question needed the class to graduate, and claimed that the “advising office was no help, so I’m taking matters into my own hands.”

Here is the full story, via Paul Kedrosky.


It sounds like those seniors are caught between Scylla and Charybdis: they need a class to graduate, and can't take other classes because evidently Berkeley imposes a maximum quota on how many classes you can take (I know that this is a policy that other public universities have discussed, and apparently implemented).

Presumably Berkeley already gives priority at registration to seniors? but even so the required classes fill up?

What I don't quite get though: wouldn't the other students in the class, being seniors, also need that class to graduate? And I don't understand why there seems to be a 5:1 conversion ratio: convince five students to drop the class so that you can enroll. Are both students by coincidence #5 on their class's waiting lists?

Make sure that every single child does, in fact, have three, four, and five-year-olds go to school. School! Not day care, school. We bring social workers into homes of parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t know what— They don’t know what quite what to do. Play the radio. Make sure the television—excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night. The phone—make sure the kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school—er, a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.

No, I’m going to go like the rest of them do, twice over, OK? Because here’s the deal. The deal is that we’ve got this a little backwards. And by the way, in Venezuela, we should be allowing people to come here from Venezuela. I know Maduro. I’ve confronted Maduro. No. 2, you talk about the need to do something in Latin America. I’m the guy that came up with $740 million to see to it those three countries, in fact, change their system so people don’t have to chance to leave. You’re all acting like we just discovered this yesterday! Thank you very much.

And don’t forget. Go to Joe..300...30...03..30..

You need to listen to words on the record player some more, hun.

Don't pay attention to him.

It's just John Bolton pretending to be Biden.

+1 The fake Brazilian does a better job than this fake Biden.

If you want to take a god deal from this post then you have to apply these strategies to your won webpage.

It's not about graduation, read again "a Haas senior in their final semester before going abroad", and "Introduction to Managerial Accounting".

A kid wants to study a semester in London or Florence. It's not the end of the world.

"The student in question needed the class to graduate"

On Haas's website it clearly lists Managerial Accounting as a requirement for your degree.

You find this in all of the UCs. Many of the classes have waitlists in the hunrdeds.

I would expect course scheduling to optimize 4 year graduation rates to be a priority. I can imagine a number of reasons why this doesn’t happen, but would be curious to know.

You're right, though it's not nearly as bad at UCLA. I've never seen someone willing to pay as much as the person mentioned in the story, but it's an accepted practice.

Many now consider private schools or out of state.

5 years or even 6 in California is really about the same as 4 at a private school.

Of course, the problem here is that Berkeley doesn't have "markets in everything". With no market signals to determine class sizes and allocate seats, the centrally planned system inevitably leads to shortages of seats in some classes and too many unfilled seats in others.

$100 to drop a class is a market signal. There is always a market despite what others may think.

It's a signal indeed.

The signal of a kid affluent enough to be willing to pay $100 to buy a place in a course that allows to go abroad. But, not rich enough to tell the parents that the travel abroad continues at the expense of losing 1 semester.

Spending $500 represents "affluence" at a university? That will buy you a couple of textbooks at best.

Make the scarce course available

Only at

7:45 am in the morning.

Problem solved.

The professors won't like that either.

That's how you get rid of the deadwood.

$100? What pikers.

Berkeley is not alone. I suspect this has arisen because students are concentrating in a narrower course of study, with finance and economics high on the list and the humanities low. What I find amusing is that Peter Thiel, the model for ambitious youth, studied philosophy and then law (both at Stanford).

In what sense is finance and economics narrower than philosophy and law? Thiel's distaste for the legal field was what pushed him to tech.

None of this is new. This same nutty registration system was present 35 years ago. Back then the sophomore premed sequence of general bio and o-chem were quite popular. So they started both classes early- giving budding physicians an 8 AM start Monday-Friday. This thinned out the herd- which had already been cut in half after freshman chemistry. The beneficiaries of this pre-med gauntlet were the Econ and Poly Sci departments. Which quickly became a home to many premed refugees who had no trouble adapting to 10 AM start times and ridiculously easy exams. And as a bonus they got to listen to the very sweet Laura Tyson tell them that the US must quickly adopt an industrial policy or our country will soon be a subsidiary of Japan, Inc.

Dude! I remember I took Econ 1 from Laura Tyson. I remember she used to wear a lot of make up, or seemed to from 25 rows back anyway. I took a few more upper division Econ classes whenever I needed some no-work credits and an easy A. Good times.

On the other hand, if you were an econ major willing to buck the trend and take o-chem from Mean Jean Frechet, he would have told you how to design and build radar-absorbing paint for your car.

It was a nudge-nudge-wink-wink thing in EECS that John Whinnery worked on stealth stuff.

People already sign up for classes they never attend to get the ed loan money. Why would they give up that money for less? Check your incentives. The school wants to get the tuition money. What are the risks for the school? Do the schools still get the Federal money if the kid drops out?

There was a story that I heard many years ago when I was an undergraduate about one way to solve this problem. Back then, the professor gave each student a class card that would allow the student to register for the class. When 200 students showed up on the first day for a class that only allowed 100 students, the professor solved this by simply throwing all the cards into the air, and letting the students work it out. Crude, but effective.

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