With the price of a single bitcoin skyrocketing 16-fold this year to $16,000 on Wednesday, the cryptocurrency is one of the hottest topics in finance. Launched in 2009 by an engineer under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin has risen from a fringe currency to a mainstream cash alternative. Today you could buy an Xbox, drugs or a coffee with bitcoin.
You can also pay for fees at a business school with bitcoin. Schools are enabling students to pay for tuition or make donations with the digital currency in a bid to decrease costs and prepare students for a method of payment which many predict will become ubiquitous in the near future.
Bitcoins are a decentralized virtual peer-to-peer currency. Similar to a text message, bitcoin enables worldwide money transfers within a few minutes without involving a bank.
Varna University of Management (VUM) in Bulgaria will enable students applying for an undergraduate program to receive the equivalent of a €1,000 scholarship in bitcoin, according to specialist news site Bitcoin.com. Ten students will receive the bitcoin scholarships in 2018, which are awarded based on the students’ background and past achievements. VUM also said it plans to enable students to pay for their tuition and accommodation bills in bitcoin.
“As Varna University of Management will now be the only accredited university to offer scholarships in bitcoins, we believe that we will have a chance to attract some of the brightest students to Varna,” the school said.
VUM is far from alone in adopting bitcoin for payments. ESMT Berlin is the first German business school to accept bitcoins as means of payment for its degree and executive education programs. The school’s chief financial officer Georg Garlichs said that integrating bitcoin as a routine method of payment is a logical consequence of digitalization.
“Especially for international transactions from countries without a well-functioning banking system, the digital currency offers great advantages through the immediate, practically free-of-charge transfer,” he said. “This makes bitcoins attractive to us as a means of accepted payment.”
King’s College in New York also accepts bitcoin for tuition, donations and some expenses through payment processing platform Coin.co. “Allowing bitcoin to be used to pay for a King’s education decreases our costs while simultaneously allowing our students to be a part of this exciting new technology,” said Gregory Thornbury, King’s president.
Coin.co CEO Brendan Diaz added that schools do not incur any currency risk using bitcoin.
Bitcoin has made its way into business schools in other ways. In 2014, two MIT students raised $500,000 for a project to distribute $100 in bitcoin to every undergraduate student — more than 4,500 — at the school. Jeremy Rubin, an engineer, and Dan Elitzer, an MBA, raised the cash to “create an ecosystem for digital currencies at MIT”.
“I caught the bug coming into business school. Once you see the power of bitcoin, it’s hard to un-see,” Dan said.
Schools are also rolling out courses on cryptocurrencies. Cambridge Judge Business School was the first in the UK to teach a subject on bitcoin and its underlying technology the blockchain. Digital currencies are a core part of a fintech program developed by the school’s Center for Alternative Finance.
“Business schools are very good at reacting to what the current hot trend is. You’ll definitely see a few more courses on the subject launched,” said Cambridge finance professor Raghu Rau.