A recent Craigslist posting has officials at Columbia Basin College trying to determine whether students looking to take advantage of scarce seats in popular college courses have been selling their spots to those desperate enough to pay money for the enrollment advantage.
The posting in question came from one such desperate student. According to an article yesterday in Inside Higher Ed, it came from a student looking to pay for a seat in Biology 160, a popular and required class for students in most of the school’s health profession programs. It is still unclear whether the posting was from a real student, or a student looking to stir up discussion on the school’s recent course cuts that have made the enrollment process more competitive, according to Inside Higher Ed.
A spokesman for the college said it was possible for students to sell their spots by telling student “buyers” exactly when they would drop the class in demand, according to the article. This would give a student a window to enroll in the class that other students may not know about. Most popular courses at the college that are over capacity fill any dropped spots within minutes anyway, the spokesman said, as students check in on those full classes on a regular basis just in case spots open up. An assistant professor interviewed for the article said she doubted the ad was real because of the hierarchical system of course enrollment at Columbia Basin. Students who really need to get into courses will do so as they get farther along in their programs, and get first dibs on many of their required courses before undergraduates with fewer credit hours to their names.
According to some of the comments on the Inside Higher Ed article, this isn’t a new phenomenon, and the Internet has made it easier for students to exchange money for course seats. Elsewhere, colleges have formalized the system of bidding. At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, MBA students participate in an online auction system when the demand for popular business electives exceeds supply. New students are given a set amount of points with which to bid, and receive more as they move through the program. Class spots then go to the highest bidder. In essence, the longer you’re at Wharton, the more seniority you have. That kind of system is common on college campuses anyway, although those with more credits may still arrange to drop courses they enroll in to have friends register immediately after in their place.
What do you think? Does this happen at your school? Or is this “problem” overblown? Let us know!