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.


Northwestern University's law school uses a bidding system that allocates a different number of points to students in different years (1L, 2L, 3L, Tax LLM, etc.). The school also provides a history of the bidding for each class so that students can see which classes tend to fill up, requiring a higher bid. The school also uses a bidding system for on-campus interviews.

I think both systems work well.

Mike S.


The solution to YOUR problem is to wait until he collects or grades the problem set. Then post the problems on the net for all to attempt. That way, any smart people like yourself can create an answer key for all those in his class (or an incorrect key).

Please post the problem set!


SIngapore Management University 'auctions' its professors. The students get $100 and bid for the classes. Useful feedback mechanism for who the most useless professors are.


For those looking for the problem set...Google is a helpful tool.


martin cohen

"Annoucements" is suboptimal.


Columbia Business School has a two rounds bidding system to allocate seats in popular classes. Students are allocated 2500 points which they use to bid. If you really want to attend a class, you can use most of your points for that class, bidding much less for others you know are not oversubscribed. The school publishes each class's previous year lowest winning bid, so students have a rough idea what the minimum is going to be to win a seat, although this is not guaranteed since each year things can be different (new courses with star professors, for example, can alter the bidding pattern). After the first round, students get back all points of unsuccessful bids. They can then bid on the remaining seats in other classes.
Trading is not officially sanctioned, but once the second round is over, student can change end enroll in any available seat left. So, if I really want to get in class A and a fellow student who has a seat in class A wants to get in class B where I have a seat, there is a way of trading. We can meet in the middle of the night with two PCs next to each other. I drop from class B while he drops simultaneously from class A. Two seats become available and we immediately reenroll in the class of choice. There is only one caveat: if another student is online at the same time and he is lucky enough to log in into the system exactly when the other student is dropping from class A, he can enroll in it before me and reap the rewards, while I am left with nothing. While at school, I heard of trades, but I have never heard of students selling their seat.


Walter Wimberly

When I was a student about 10 years ago at Univ. of Central Fl. those with the most completed credits got to register first. So generally Seniors got first pick, down the line to Freshmen.

There was a popular class I tried signing up for my Senior year, and within the first 6 hours, it filled up, and I was put 8th on the waiting list.

My solution was to go the the first class and ask the professor for an override immediately after the class (show initiative to the instructor). No luck - 32 was the max size and he wasn't moving. So while the students were still there, I offer $30 (a week of meals for me) to anyone in the class who would give me their seat. I instantly had two interested "buyers".

U of C alum

Wow, U of C students are now selling spots in their classes (and being rewarded for it)? So much for "Crescat scientia; vita excolatur." Maybe Crescat opulentia. Sad.