Cryptocurrencies are more than just a gimmick. They’re becoming increasingly accepted not just among individuals, but also among institutions. Universities are the latest to join the dance, and they’re using cryptocurrencies in different ways. From accepting tuition to some programs to donations and NFTs, universities have implemented different systems to leverage cryptos.
Recent surveys show that up to 1 in 5 Americans own some form of cryptocurrency, and the figure is even higher for under 40-year-olds. Although cryptocurrencies aren’t at the market peak they reached in November 2021, and although there’s been some decrease in confidence due to the collapse of some large exchanges, people are still very much into this type of asset. Whether it’s just someone looking for the best way to buy Bitcoin or someone looking to start an NFT business, interest in cryptos remains high.
So if you’re a university at the forefront of research and innovation, you definitely want in as well.
Tuitions, donations, and NFTs
The first thing universities can do with cryptos is take tuition fees. For universities with many international students, this can be especially rewarding. Students can lose significant amounts through currency exchanges — that problem is all gone with crypto. Paying tuition is also faster with cryptocurrency, you don’t need to wait a few days for the transaction to be processed. So for international students (and conversely, universities with international students), cryptos could offer some advantages for paying tuition fees.
Universities then deal with the crypto in different ways. For instance, the University of Nicosia in Cyprus immediately converts the bitcoin they receive to the local currency (euros). The Universidad Americana first conducts an assessment to see how they expect the price to vary, and only then convert.
However, using cryptocurrency to pay tuition fees is not widespread. While several universities now accept it (including some big ones), the practice is still only slowly spreading.
Another way in which universities have been using cryptos is to accept donations. For many universities, donations represent an important income stream, and not being able to take donations in one currency (say, a cryptocurrency) could be disadvantageous. Notably, Vitalik Buterin, a co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain, donates $9.4 million in cryptocurrency to the University of Maryland — money aimed at funding public health research.
Another way universities are looking to explore blockchain and cryptos is through NFTs. NFTs are seemingly past their hype heyday, but there are still avenues that universities can explore. For instance, in June 2022, UC Berkeley created an NFT inspired by the groundbreaking work of immunologist James Allison, who won a Nobel Prize. The NFT was auctioned off and garnered around $50,000, which was then used to support further research in immunology.
Earlier that year, Harvard University announced that every graduating student would get a special NFT as a keepsake. Similarly, Duke University is offering digital certificates in the form of NFTs to those who successfully complete one of its courses on blockchain technology. It’s not clear how much these NFTs matter to graduates, but it’s something that universities are trying.
Schools like Brigham Young University and Syracuse University are adding a creative twist by packaging NFTs with real-life benefits, such as VIP seating at their events. Interestingly, this seems to be paying off as some people are paying extra for the allure of the NFTs.
In summary, the marriage between universities and cryptocurrencies is becoming less of a novelty and more of an established relationship. While we’re still in a transitional period, educational institutions are embracing the technological shift, not only by accepting cryptocurrencies for tuition or donations but also by integrating them into their campus culture through NFTs and other creative implementations. They’re also trying out various approaches, with some degree of success.
As we look to the future, it’s clear that universities will continue to find inventive ways to leverage the burgeoning crypto economy. As these technologies evolve, we can expect educational institutions to evolve with them, potentially leading to even more streamlined financial transactions, innovative fundraising methods, and creative ways to honor and reward their students and alumni.