Finalists posed at last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, including eventual winner Karthik Nemmani (center, in dark blue shirt). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Elite spellers now can pay to get a spot in the iconic Scripps National Spelling Bee, the Wall Street Journal's Shalini Shankar reports.

Driving the news: Until last year, the only way children could qualify for the National Spelling Bee was by winning a regional contest. The new pay-to-play option called "RSVBee" allows parents to pay for their kids to move on even if they lose at regionals. Parents pay an entry fee of $1,500 and agree to "fund their family’s own travel and lodging, potentially thousands of dollars," according to the Journal.

Why it matters: This year, paying contestants will outnumber the winners at regional tournaments for the first time, according to the Journal. The option doubled the number of people to more than 500.

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