Oversubscribed Classes

I make a brief cameo appearance in this Chronicle of Higher Education article about how universities allocate students to popular courses.

It mentions the student who tried to sell her spot in my class, thereby bringing down the wrath of the University administration. I liked her approach, though, so we’ve now got her employed doing research assistance for the sequel to Freakonomics.

The first problem set is now due in my class, and it’s a hard one. I suspect there are plenty of students wishing they had sold their spot in the class right about now.

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  1. Neal says:

    The Wharton method absolutely blows me away.

    Half the time I didn’t even know what classes I needed to take, and once ended up in a class, that I thought I could and needed to graduate, but still hadn’t completed all of the nine prerequisites.

    Sometimes I was getting into required classes mere hours before the first class, and I never knew anything about the professors unless I had them before.

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  2. Roger says:

    Would it be possible to post your problems here? So we could take a look at them?

    Fisher does a pretty good job for their graduate program when it comes to making classes available and what requirements are needed.

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  3. Lyn LeJeune says:

    Dang! I wish I’d thought of that when I shimmied into that math class way back in the Stone Age. Two stones divided by the geographical distance from the cave man…. And then when I went on to teach college (history)and every semester I could have picked out about 5 students who I would have been more than happy to encourage selling their places. Yes, my class was in great demand. History is very funny and so are the people in it.

    I think that young woman was very inventive and should have been congratulated. Entrepreneurship is about getting along in the world and seizing opportunities…as long as you don’t hurt anyone but ripping off that ladder rung and beating the guy above you to a pulp. Didn’t we use to say climb over the guy? How far we have come.

    “When Ignatius J. Reilly Worked at the New Orleans Public Library and I Went Crazy at the Port-O-Call,” and more great stuff to help rebuild New orleans libraries at http://www.beatitudesinneworleans.blogspot.com

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  4. Zak says:

    In my undergrad experience there was always a handful of students who “fellaway” mid-semester. I’m highly doubtful UPenn was taking into account average drop rates for classes in each department when setting class sizes. Seems to me, it would be best to slightly oversell the class, which would allow for a full class to still be in place come the end of the semester.

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  5. Adam says:

    Could you please post the problem? Would love to know what you set in comparison to my lecturers!



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  6. Chris says:

    NYU was a simple matter of how many credits you had vs. everybody else. Obviously there was plenty of begging and bargaining, but I never had a problem getting into a class I needed, even after the semester had started. Also everything was online, including what classes you had left to take for your degree and they updated instantly once you added that class to your schedule. I guess the only setback is being an economics major at nyu, everyone assumes you went to stern, rather than the more appropriate college of arts and sciences.

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  7. Cyril Morong says:

    How could you sell a seat in a class? I assume that you have to get officially registered. Was the seller going tell the buyer “I will be dropping the course at exactly such and such time, so log on and register right away?” How exactly would the transfer of “ownership” be made? Anyway, who could possibly be hurt by this?

    Can students at U of C register online? Or do you have to physically go the the registars office? If you could sell your spot in the class, it seems like alot of students would either login to register sooner than normal or stand in line. But by selling their seats, they are providing a service to students whose time is more valuable. It is just like people waiting in line for lobbyists in Washington. It seems like a win-win situation and just having a policy that allows this is a good economics lesson itself.

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  8. Andy says:

    There was a professor at the University of Prince Edward Island that had an innovative approach to overcrowding in his class – he offered a B- to any student that dropped out. He had 20 takers, but got suspended for his efforts.


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