Should Students Get Paid for Good Grades?

Theoretically, students should go to school and learn simply for the sheer love of learning and the knowledge that studying hard will eventually land them a good paying job (though that assumption is getting harder and harder to prove in these current economic times). 

But is learning for the love of learning and a promise of a brighter future enough?

Or, should we pay our students to learn?

Isn’t Paying Them Just a Form of Bribery?

Some may argue that paying students to get good grades, whether they are elementary, middle school, high school or even college students, is akin to bribery.  These people worry that students will always expect a reward for every good action and test and that they won’t be intrinsically motivated to study just for the sake of learning.

While there is some truth to this concern, the simple fact is that not everyone is a good student.

Typically, there are those who learn easily, and as such, enjoy it.  I have not paid my son for good grades, but he loves to learn.  He is a voracious reader and reads in his free time.  If he had trouble reading and struggled with school, I just might pay him to get good grades.

For some students, even older ones, struggling through just for a future promise of a good job is a lot to ask.

Paying College Students Has Been Proven to Make a Difference

Even more importantly, research has shown that paying students for good grades can make a difference in their success.

“The social-policy research group MDRC, a nonpartisan organization,” states that “cash incentives combined with counseling offered ‘real hope’ to low-income and nontraditional students at two Louisiana community colleges.  The program for low-income parents. . .was simple:  enroll in college at least half-time, maintain at least a C average and earn $1,000 a semester for up to two terms.  Participants, who were randomly selected, were 30% more likely to register for a second semester than were students who were not offered the supplemental financial aid.  And the participants who were first offered cash incentives in spring 2004. . .were also more likely than their peers to be enrolled in college a year after they had finished the two-term program” (TIME).

Paying Students Might Keep Them Motivated to Succeed

getting paid for good grades

Do you think students should get paid for good grades?

The repercussions as a society for children who do not do well in school or who drop out are serious.  A full 16 percent of students ages 16 to 24 dropped out of high school in 2007 (CNN).   The New York Times offers a more sobering statistic, “Only 7 of 10 ninth graders today will get high school diplomas.”

What happens to these drop outs? 

Many become parents at a young age, and to provide for a family on a minimum wage salary is very difficult to do.  Others turn to a life of crime, and then we as a society must pay for their incarceration.

In turn, if those dropouts can make it through and graduate, they “will obtain higher employment and earnings – an astonishing 50 percent to 100 percent increase in lifetime income – and will be less likely to draw on public money for health care and welfare and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.  Further, because of the increased income, the typical graduate will contribute more in tax revenues over his lifetime than if he’d dropped out” (New York Times).

If they can graduate from high school, they will be much more likely to contribute to the system through taxes rather than draw from it in the form of welfare.

Of course, paying students for good grades is not the only solution to the high dropout rate.

However, if there is a student who is wavering between dropping out and staying in school, perhaps a payment for good grades can help compel him to stay in school.

Chicago public schools are betting that monetary payment will make the difference for students.

Under a program in conjunction with Harvard University, students at 20 public schools receive $50 for an A, $35 for a B and $20 for a C.  The payments are made after every 5 week grading cycle.  “Students are understandably enthusiastic about the program, and it seems to be working:  86% of students at the top-achieving school took home some money during the last grading interval” (Newser).


Paying students for good grades is a controversial topic.

However, more and more high schools and community colleges are offering a structured payment program with success.  At a smaller level, as a parent, you may decide rewarding your kids with good grades is a smart decision which can help encourage them to work harder and succeed.

And if you don’t want to hand out the cash, you could always reward them with free rewards that businesses offer such as free meals or movie rentals.

Do you pay your kids for good grades?  Do you approve of programs that pay students?

Free Newsletter to Keep you Free From Broke!Name: Email: We respect your email privacyPowered by AWeber email marketing
Published or updated March 28, 2013.


  1. As the parent of a college grad and two current college students my answer is no. However this comes from our middle class suburban perspective. Our kids were expected to earn good grades and mostly did. Looking at programs like the one mentioned locally here in the Chicago Public Schools there may be some merit. I generally am opposed to paying students for good grades, however.

    • kathleen says:

      boy u just dont worry

      • vincent says:

        Yes,because if you were a kid you would want money and if you get paid for good grades then you would join more classes then have better education this is coming from a kid @better

  2. John from ImpulseSave says:

    Sure, not everyone is a good student, but if you’re paying a student for good grades you’re teaching them that learning isn’t something to be enjoyed. When you pay someone for something they initially enjoyed for free their mind tries to comprehend why they are now being compensated for this intrinsically enjoyable act. The solution they come up with is that they don’t, in fact, enjoy doing what they are paid for, even though they did previously. The psychological name for this concept is cognitive dissonance and can be a major factor in deterring students’ desire to learn.

    • learning isnt fun regardless

      • Hey ur learning is fun to some people so why don’t u shut up for once and put ur opinion somewhere else because i’m a student and i LOVE LEARNING so u are wrong some people love learning just like me.

        • “Shut up for once”, I am sorry,but there seems to be only one comment from “ur.” I’d also like to mention that this is the internet, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. For ur, it seems like he doesn’t like learning, just like a lot of other people, and that is ok, that is his/her opinion. Your opinion is different, so don’t tell him to shut up for not having the same view as you. respect his view of things, just like I respect your opinion (even if my opinion is different than yours.)


  3. I don’t “pay” my children when they get good grades, definitely no cash reward. But I must admit, I give them rewards in the form of toys, books, movies, and a visit to the park, zoo, or museum. I believe that it is their responsibility to have good grades and develop good study habits. Likewise, it is also my responsibility as a parent to check their assignments and help them with their studies if they are having difficulty.

  4. “Students are understandably enthusiastic about the program, and it seems to be working: 86% of students at the top-achieving school took home some money during the last grading interval.”

    Put another way, 14% of 9th graders didn’t earn even one C during the most recent quarter, despite taking P.E. and art or music. Is this really what is being provided as evidence of a successful program? How many students earned only one C in a fairly easy course?

    In addition, statements like the one above reek of sampling bias. I don’t want to know percentages for a “top-achieving school.” I want to see before and after data for the program as a whole or, more specifically, for struggling schools that have entered the program. That’s where you will see if this program is making a difference.

    My hunch is that this monetary incentive is making little or no difference. After all, the typical quarter in Chicago public high schools is 10-11 weeks. Even 9th graders with no financial background understand the economics of the situation. The possibility of earning $300 (at most) for studying your butt off for 2.5 months isn’t worth the time, energy, and stress unless they were already planned on doing so, even for students from poor households.

    In the end, paying kids to get good (or mediocre) grades does nothing to teach students the value of education and appears to do little for them financially.

  5. Have you heard of GradeFund? It’s a business predicated on paying students for good grades:

  6. Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle says:

    No way no pay. What a way to defeat the spirits of the children who do not learn as easily as others. School came very easily for my sons but I watched some of their friends struggle and become discouraged. Not everyone has a support system at home to help with homework and those students would be penalized.

    Children who’s parents make their solar system for science and help them with the writing of english papers would be rewarded for a minimal effort.

    When my sons were younger I avoided the grades on the report cards and focused on the comments. Helpful, worker, putting in effort, kind to others, improving – traits that make good students and good people.

  7. i think students should get paid when and if they get good grades. reason behind this logic is what they will accomplish afterwards? what they could have done if they had financial support for their creative ideas?

  8. Paying students is a great idea, but I think it should be the parent’s responsibility to do so. I always loved school, and every once and a while my parents would pay me for my good grades, just to reward me. I continued to get straight A’s, payment or not, but there are some kids who need the extra incentive.

What Do You Think?