UBC students are paying hundreds of dollars for a spot in full classes through Eyeout — a popular service amongst students that allows them to purchase or trade seats from other students in otherwise full or blocked courses.
As listed on its classifieds, seats are typically advertised for between $0 and $50. However, courses from departments in high demand like computer science can be as expensive as $1,299 for a seat and $699 for a waitlist spot.
“Computer science is one of the hardest majors to get in … everyone recognizes the need to be able to understand code,” said Zack, a second year arts student and recent seller on Eyeout. “This problem can’t be solved as long as the demand is greater than the supply… it’s economics.”
Other courses that have or had been listed with a hefty price tag include COMM 491 at $300, WRDS 150 at $300 and MATH 105 at $500.
There have also been listings that exceed what students would rationally pay for, such as $50,000 for Math 105. Others were not used to buy, sell or trade courses altogether — instead, some read “buy $NaN” or “sell $10 Pepperoni Pizza email@example.com.”
“[The users] can pretty much write whatever they want,” said Bea Subion, the current manager of the service. “I just created the section because everyone kept spamming my suggestion box with trying to buy or sell courses.”
She also noted that she has no knowledge of whether any of these sales actually go through, as students are not required to have an account on Eyeout to use it.
“Anonymity isn’t a sole feature of the classifieds section,” she said. “It’s the entire website, and that decision to not make accounts leads to Slacknotes — the website that manages Eyeout — not receiving anybody’s names or personal information.”
Students do actually respond to these expensive listings, as confirmed by Zack.
“[I’ve] had friends buy courses for $1,000 … it’s actually simpler to buy it at a higher price than to wait in a waitlist,” he said.
Even so, he expressed feeling conflicted about benefiting from Eyeout and believes that the onus should be on UBC to advance its registration system so that students don’t have to spend thousands to be registered in core courses.
In response, Associate VP of Enrolment Services and Registrar Kate Ross stated that the use of bots to monitor courses’ availability is in violation of Policy 104.
“We are monitoring the various services, and the buy and sell sites closely to ensure that this does not happen again,” read her emailed statement. “A notice has also been posted on the Student Information System (where students access academic, financial and registration) and sent to students reminding them of our registration and conduct policies.”
For finishing students, Ross urges them to meet with an adviser because under UBC policy, “no student in a graduating year may be excluded from a course necessary to meet degree program requirements because of lack of space.”
However, this policy does not guarantee enrolment for non-graduating students, thus leaving a demand for services like Eyeout.
“Why not just make a quick buck on this — I realize it’s unethical and probably against UBC policy but, if there’s a way people will always find a way,” Zack said. “People will always find a way.”