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'Bidding for Classes' Paper Earns Top Award

Three CC Authors Study College's Course Auction System

A paper analyzing what Colorado College’s system of bidding for courses reveals about student preferences in higher education won the Academy of Economics and Finance 2013 award for the Best Paper in Economics.

The paper, titled “Bidding for Classes: Course Allocation Under the Colorado College Auction System,” was authored by Cassandra Benson ’12, currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in economics at Cornell University, and Kristina Lybecker and Dan Johnson, both CC associate professors of economics and business.

The three Colorado College authors studied the course auction system at CC, which employs an economic system to allocate scarce course seats. During a sealed-bid auction, each student receives nontransferable, non-bankable currency (80 points) with which to bid on courses. The study was an effort to examine the characteristics of both students and course experience that make it relatively “more valuable” in terms of student bids.

The authors estimated an instrumental variables probit model to determine whether particular student populations are A.) implicitly wealthier, having the ability to afford more expensive electives, or B.) more risk-averse, choosing to avoid ambiguity by bidding more strongly and/or remaining in a class rather than selecting another after pre-registration.

Beyond the anticipated department-specific and instructor-specific effects attributable to popular majors or charismatic instructors, they found significant evidence that students bid more strongly for courses that have perceived scarcity of seats, courses that offer a higher expected grade, courses taught by an instructor similar to themselves (i.e. gender, ethnicity), or courses with special attributes such as limited enrolment or field trip components. They also found evidence of some populations being more willing to “shop around” for new class experiences after the pre-registration period.

The award was announced at a recent Academy of Economics and Finance meeting in Chattanooga, Tenn.