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How Are Cryptocurrencies Impacting College Students?

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Students are Exploring Crytocurrencies as Learners, Investors, and Entrepreneurs

Not long ago, Forbes published an article featuring former University of Michigan student, Kyle Winstanley. He was a senior, majoring in engineering, until he joined a Facebook discussion on cryptocurrency. From there, he began to network with other college students, did lots of research, and ended up turning his apartment into a crypto trading “center.”

Winstanley is one of a growing number of college students who have come to see cryptocurrency as an opportunity to invest and realize financial gain early in their lives. They are also a generation that has lost faith in the traditional financial system and are happy to see the disruption of cryptocurrency as an alternative.

Forbes further reported that a recent Harris Poll showed that millennials would prefer investing $1,000 in Bitcoin rather than in stocks.

Colleges Respond

Both students and administrators on college campuses have responded to this wave of interest in crypto in many ways.

Student investing groups are cropping up all across the country. They are forming clubs that pool money and invest in Bitcoin and other cryptos; they are setting up investing “hubs” to watch the crypto markets, so that they can respond quickly to investment opportunities.

The Blockchain Education Network (prior name, College Cryptocurrency Network) has taken student interest in and study of cryptocurrency to a global level. The organization develops and runs cross-campus events and has as its mission the education of students, through the organization of chapters on college campuses. At first, this network was focused on educating students about cryptocurrencies and investing opportunities. But it has now broadened its mission to include education in the technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptos – blockchain. And it has broadened its reach down to high school students. It fosters a huge online “discussion room” for students from around the globe, so that young people can understand not just cryptocurrency markets but the blockchain technology that supports them.

At Stanford University, Dan Boneh, co-director of the computer security lab, states that his cryptocurrency classes are at capacity and that there are more than a million signed up for his online class. And this is only one example.

A number of U.S. college campuses are now offering graduate coursework – Duke, Cornell, NYU, and MIT, to name a few. And the courses that are offered are filled to capacity, requiring large lecture rooms, rather than standard classrooms.

And for those who are not enrolled in colleges that offer crypto coursework, there are always online courses.

Princeton University offers a class on courser, related specifically to Bitcoin, how it works, and its place in the market.

And, for those who are still “dis-believers,” consider this: Georgia Tech, since 2014, has allowed students to add Bitcoin to their payment cards.

Blockchain as a Side Craze

It is not just cryptocurrency that had captured the minds of college students. Behind crypto is the technology of blockchain. And it has become a “darling” of computer science majors across the planet.

The concept of blockchain is that transactions and much more can be “memorialized” permanently in “blocks” that are connected to the block before them and the ones that follow, thus creating a chain of data/information that is immutable. The technology was originally created for cryptocurrency and had a rather sketchy reputation. It was a place for transactions to take place that were encrypted and “anonymous,” and became the preferred transaction venue for criminal activity – drug deals for one.

But as Bitcoin moved into the spotlight and became more mainstream (even Wall Street has become involved), the technology of blockchain came under careful scrutiny as well. All of a sudden, major sectors of the economy were beginning to look at blockchain as a means of recording and storing data and information in a safe, secure environment with access provided to only those who possessed a key code to access it.

Consider the possibilities, just as these industries did. Contracts can be recorded and incapable of being changed; health records, identity documents, educational records – all things that can be hacked and altered – can become a part of an immutable ledger. Every sector, from governments to insurance, to real estate, and travel companies, is now looking at blockchain technology as a solution to any number of problems that have plagued them – fraud, identify theft, hacking, etc.

All of this has piqued the interest of computer science majors. Blockchain technology is new and, given the interest in it in so many sectors of the economy, a lot of students see potential future careers in this area.

Where is All of This Going?

There are two aspects of the impact of cryptocurrency on college students:

  1. Many are looking at investments in Bitcoin and other cryptos as a new and perhaps only way to “get rich quick” in this new economic reality of digital currency. College students are coming to see cryptos as the future of “money” in a world that many older generations cannot understand. They have strong distrust of the traditional financial industry and see a future in which fiat currency will become irrelevant.
  2. The technology behind cryptocurrency – blockchain – is seen as the future of digital transactions, data, and information recording and storage. Developing expertise in this technology might hold the promise of a great career in many sectors of the economy.

So, has cryptocurrency had an impact on college students? The answer is a resounding “yes.”

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. With all of the interest in Blockchain these days, I thought this was an interesting post to publish. That being said, I want to encourage a balanced approach. I wouldn’t be surprised if we soon enter what Gartner refers to as the “trough of disillusionment” with Blockchain, partly because of the significant compute cycle (= energy) requirements of deploying the technology at scale (quantum computing may the resolution to that issue, but not yet.)

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