It’s a stressful time of the quarter. While contending with midterms, we’re simultaneously required to register for the next round of classes. Who among us hasn’t had to flip a textbook’s pages with one hand while clicking away with the other, pleading – nay, praying – for an adequate connection to GOLD during a last-second cram session? As the beads of sweat fall, we can’t help but think there must be a better way. With a little economic thought, we can find one.
Like cash, food or oil, classes are resources. Collegians get a decent measure of utility from them and thus value them. As with many other resources, classes come in all different varieties, some more desirable than others; for instance, I wouldn’t want to meet the student who’d willingly show up at 8 a.m. for Intro to Transethnic Genderology. However, unlike other resources, the less-demanded classes cost the same as the flooded ones.
This doesn’t make sense. If you, proud purchaser of consumer electronics, went shopping, you’d be shocked to see the shiny new iPods retailing for the same price as the used cassette players. Thousands of eager music fans would no doubt rush the store in order to land one of Apple’s devices, which would run out of stock long before every demander was satiated. Whoever happens to squeak through the checkout line at the right moment gets the gizmo of the decade, while others are left out in the cold, trying desperately to enjoy old Foreigner cassettes. Is this fair? More importantly, is it logical?
That scenario is analogous the class selection process. You may want a seat in a particular lecture very badly, but, other than putting your fist through the drywall, there’s no way to express this preference. While GOLD has anointed the registration process with the convenience of the Internet, it has yet to harness the medium’s potential for innovation. It could stand to learn a thing or two from a firm that, with resounding success, did both: eBay.
Thus, I unveil a modest proposal that hybridizes the best of GOLD with the best of eBay: We’ll call it “G-Bay.” Unlike our current, economically unsound system, G-Bay can reliably direct the resources under its jurisdiction to their most-valued uses. Instead of typing in enroll codes and hoping for the best, students could bid on spots in the courses they desire. If you’re absolutely desperate to gain entrance into a specific section, you have only to spend a bit more than the bidder who wants in almost as much as you do.
The improvements over what we’re doing now are manifold. Think of the times you’ve been aced out of your meticulously planned schedule simply because some schmo typed in his perm number a second earlier. Maybe he didn’t even want the class, and was just padding out his quarter, whereas you needed it to graduate. With G-Bay, you’d be able to buy your way in, and the guy who doesn’t really want the class all that badly can twiddle his thumbs in another classroom.
For the rich brats among us, G-Bay would provide a useful avenue to get the exact schedule they want whenever they want it, but it’s even more helpful for the financially challenged. If, for instance, hundreds of students are frantically bidding up the cost of a place in the class taught by that dreamy new philosophy professor, Gauchos on a budget could instead opt for the same material presented by the crotchety oldster with ear hair out to the fire exits. Similarly, instructors reputed to be easier might get pricey, so the studious could choose a greater challenge and save a buck.
Sure, this is all well and good, but it’s not just about the kids; due to bidding wars initiated by courses or subjects that fall into vogue, the university would benefit as well. Bringing in someone well known to teach a class in their field for just one quarter could generate enough of a profit to end columns whining about student fees forever. That, of course, would make more room for economics: everyone wins!
Daily Nexus columnist Colin Marshall is auctioning off his Transethnic Genderology book to anyone willing to pay for shipping.