Scalpers at the University of Toronto

23 09 2013

Crowded Lecture Theatre

According an article in the Toronto Star,

University of Toronto students desperate for scarce seats in fully booked classrooms are offering cash to classmates willing to give up a spot, turning registration into a bidding war.

“$100 to whomever drops (History of Modern Espionage),” posted Christopher Grossi on Facebook Tuesday. “I really need this course.”The third-year history student said the 180-person course filled up before his designated registration time. After talking to the professor without success, he said offering money was his last chance to coax someone to trade with him.”

Right now, the scalpers “early bird” students who register in a class and then sell their places to others are collecting value. It’s analogous to a baseball stadium selling tickets at a low price to people who queue at midnight and then allowing them to sell the tickets for their true or market price to actual fans later on. I wonder whether U of T is considering ways of recapturing the revenue it is losing to scalpers, perhaps by charging more for courses that are in demand.  Doing so, however, would open up a huge can of political worms within departments. However, doing so would generate the revenue needed to address the shortages in class spaces and thus put this black market out of business.

Ideally, however, U of T would use its massive resources to provide a suitable number of spaces anyway.  Regardless of whether the extra money ends up in the hands of the university registrar or some scalper, requiring students to pay extra for the most desirable classes within a department disadvantages students who rely on loans. (Unless payments to scalpers  can be covered by the student loan programme, which would require the scalpers to issue receipts, which isn’t likely to happen).

The fact students are bidding for spaces in the History of Espionage class must be a great morale boost to the professor, Wesley Wark.

Hat tip to MR.

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