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Update: Sponsoring Students for Each Letter Grade (as well as professor evaluations)

A way to make education cheaper based off of the performance of that student.

Photo of Adrian Casas

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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

The target audience is for all students who are looking to reduce the cost they have to pay for tuition or student loans. This re-imagines the cost of college by rewarding students on the grades they earn.


The Idea:

Reduce tuition for a student's future courses by rewarding an amount for the grades students receive in the current semester. For example, if a student is currently enrolled in classes, every A they get would result in 50% cost reduction for a course the following semester. So if they were to get 4 A’s, and they take 4 classes next semester, they would get 50% off of their tuition for the following semester. Not only will this encourage students to study harder, but it would decrease the dropout rate as well as increase the student’s value of their education.  Students would need to apply to the program in order to get funded. That way, only students who are seriously concerned or in need of extra funding will apply.

The amounts received would be along the lines of: 

A – 50% off a course 

B – 30% off a course

C – 15% off a course


How to Fund:

This can be funded either by government grants or we can get it funded by individual sponsors, kind of like Education Dream (http://www.edudream.co/). It differs from this sponsor-funded model by the fact that sponsors would be able to sign up and choose the grades that they would be willing to fund, (A, B, or C). This would reduce the costs they have to invest and ultimately, would allow for more investors to pledge amounts.

If tuition is based on a fixed cost, no matter what the hours, there would be a limit of 4 classes that can count towards tuition reduction (or whatever the minimum amount of hours is to be a full-time student). So if a student is taking 6 classes, only their top 4 grades would count towards the funding. They would need to provide proof of their grades by a certain date, either in some type of Grade report or Transcript.

On the other hand, if tuition is dependent on the number of classes taken, then every class would count towards sponsorship.

Full Example:

If we have it in a sponsored model, then for each A, 50% would be sponsored for by the next semester. So if there is a fixed price of $4500 for a semester with a minimum of 4 classes, then each class would cost sponsors about $562.50 for each A made. For every B, sponsors would pay $337.50 (etc.).  

Now if we could somehow assign multiple sponsors to a student and their classes, then we could reduce this price even further. Imagine having 10 sponsors per class a student takes (an A in this case would only cost $50 a sponsor). 

Sponsors would eventually be rewarded depending on how much they had pledged. In order to find out what rewards would be valuable to sponsors, we would need to do market surveys. 


Refinement Phase Edit:


The New Idea:

Students will be apply to the program to be sponsored by several individuals. They will have their own page on the website where they can share their unique stories as well as their endeavors and future plans. Ultimately, they will be able to convey why they deserve to be sponsored over others. From this point, sponsors can pledge amount ranging from $25-$X, (X being 50% of the total student's tuition). The student can be sponsored by any amount of sponsors until the student has been pledged 50% of their tuition. At this point, donating to this student would be locked. Once pledged, sponsors can not back out. Sort of in the way Kick Starter works, funds will not be released until the student has finished their semester and have received their final letter grade and evaluation (explained in next paragraph). The funds can then be sent directly to the accredited university to ensure that the money is going to the student's tuition for the next semester. 

How they will be evaluated: 

Students will be evaluated based not only on their letter grade in this class, (such as noted above), but will in addition be rated by the Professor and Teacher Assistants  based off of the student's overall progress, participation, and effort in the course.

This is how the new distribution will be, for a max of 50% reduction in next semester's tuition (subject to change):

     A - 25%

     B - 20%

     C - 15%

     Exceptional - 25%

     Great - 20%

     Average - 15%

     Below Average - 5%

i.e. If a student had a $4500 tuition per semester based on 12 hours, each class would have a value of $562.50. Students could then receive 50% of this back if they received both an A and an Exceptional rating. 

The idea behind splitting up the evaluation is to help combat against students' motivation being solely based upon making a good grade. Ultimately, the student should be focused on their education and overall progress in the course.

Making a grade below a C will not earn students credit, which safeguards against students not putting in proper effort. However, if a student is still putting lots of effort and not succeeding, the professor and TA's will be able to show this through their evaluation. That way, even students not making amazing grades will still be able to have their tuition reduced.

This obviously calls for a check against professors giving unfair evaluations; so we will have students also rate the professor based on how well they were helping students and making themselves available. If a professor's rating is low, then the weight of their evaluations will be adjusted accordingly. However, if it falls below a certain threshold, then we will have to investigate the matter further and make sure that the accounts of the students are correct. 

This two-way system will hopefully allow for a fair process. I am also open to other suggestions in how to ensure a fair evaluation system. 


How to add Incentives donors (New Update on 2/2/16)

I think a great way to do this is to make the donations to students tax-deductible. That way, sponsors are encouraged to donate more without having to worry as much about the financial strain it may cause.

Another incentive could be to allow donors to be put into raffles for weekend getaways as well as honor top donors on the front page of the website (this one is up in the air). 


How this addresses the unique needs of low-income families:

Students who come from low-income backgrounds may apply for the sponsorship and will have to provide confidential information, such as those required for FAFSA. This will ensure that students who apply are actually in need of aid. 


Value Proposition: 

Help low income students and families pay for a college education by allowing students to focus on their overall success in a course. This will be achieved by having multiple sponsors per student that way there is not too large of a commitment for any one sponsor. 


Assumptions:

1. We must assume that professors and TA's are willing to cooperate with the program.

2. We must assume that cutting tuition in half, (for best case scenarios), would be enough to help low-income students go to college. 


What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Talk with students on campus here at the University of Texas at Austin and see what they think of the idea.

This idea emerged from

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17 comments

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Photo of David Chin
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I think students would definitely be more motivated to commit to their school work if they were driven by monetary rewards - is this wholly a positive thing? I'm not sure.

I had a few immediate thoughts:
-There is not a national grading plane. Schools, programs, and professors all grade differently. Could this jeopardize the merit of the system?
-In many programs, the grades are not always the main quantifier of how well the student is doing, or what the student truly deserves. Sometimes the value of what the student truly takes away trumps the letter grade.
-Would students choose certain class specifically because they know the professor is prone to giving higher grades? Could affect the integrity of the student, program, and course.

I think money is a strong motivator. And I think money drives results in many cases. But I am not sure driving students to succeed for monetary rewards is a long term positive action plan. However, this is simply my personal opinion, and I do think the system you have created has merit and is interesting. I wish you the best!

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