LAS VEGAS — Think you're going to ace freshman year? Want to put money on that? A Web site called Ultrinsic is taking wagers on grades from students at 36 colleges nationwide starting this month.
Just as Las Vegas sports books set odds on football games, Ultrinsic will pay you top dollar for A's, a little less for the more likely outcome of a B average or better, and so on. You also can wager you'll fail a class by buying what Ultrinsic calls "grade insurance."
Chief Executive Officer Steven Wolf insists this is not online gambling, which technically is illegal in the United States, because wagers involve skill.
"The students have 100 percent control over it, over how they do. Other people's stuff you bet on — your own stuff you invest in," Wolf said. "Everything's true about it, I'm just trying to say that the underlying concept is a little bit more than just making a bet — it's actually an incentive."
David Cushman, an incoming freshman at California State University, Stanislaus, said the idea is intriguing but too risky for him.
His school is not among the campuses where students can participate in Ultrinsic. Neither is the University of California at Merced.
"I guess if it's safe, it's an easy way to earn money," said the 17-year-old Manteca High School graduate. "But I don't think I would personally do it. I'm not a risky person."
Julie Blickenstaff has a little more experience in college. The 22-year-old "supersenior" said her willingness to put money on her grades would depend on the class and the timing. "If you could do it right before you take your finals, you might be OK," she said.
Here's how Wolf says the Web site works: A student registers, uploads his or her schedule and gives Ultrinsic access to official school records. The New York-based site then calculates odds based on the student's college history and any information it can dig up on the difficulty of each class, the topic and other factors. The student decides how much to wager up to a cap that starts at $25 and increases with use.
Alex Winter, a 20-year-old about to start his junior year majoring in economics at the University of Pennsylvania, placed wagers through Ultrinsic after getting a flier on campus.
"I said, 'OK, that sounds like an easy way to make money,' so I signed up," said Winter, who bet $20 to $50 each on six of the 10 classes he took last year and cleared $150 overall.