Paying for College with Bitcoin

BitcoinWhat’s the relationship between Kanye West and digital currency?

You may think there is no connection, but Coinye (formerly Coinye West) is just one of many digital currencies that have emerged into our technology-filled world. Bitcoin is arguably the most well-known currency, but Coinye did have a short life before Kanye West’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against the creators of the currency1.

If you’re not familiar with Bitcoin, it’s a (relatively new) open-source digital currency that has received a tremendous amount of media attention as its value has skyrocketed from $13 per Bitcoin to $1,132 in 2013 alone 2. This wild price swing has led many to question whether Bitcoin can rightfully be considered a currency, but that’s not stopping some from offering to accept Bitcoin as payment for goods and services. Bitcoin prides itself on its secure, easy and inexpensive service. It is completely digital money and eliminates the need for a middleman while making a payment.

Sites like WordPress, Overstock.com, and OKCupid are just some of the companies that have added Bitcoin to their list of accepted payment methods. Additionally, Virgin Galactic has agreed to accept Bitcoin for flights to space3, and a Hamptons homeowner has offered to accept Bitcoin for his house listed at $799,0004. But even more interestingly, the first accredited college in the world has agreed to accept Bitcoin as payment for tuition and fees.

You may be wondering how Bitcoin is related to paying for higher education. Let me give you some examples of how Bitcoin has been used in the past and how Bitcoin has begun to be used in the education industry.

The college, the University of Nicosia, is located in Cyprus. In a press release, Chief Financial Officer Dr. Christos Vlachos said:

“We are acutely aware that digital currency is an inevitable technical development that will lead to significant innovation in online commerce, financial systems, international payments and remittances, and global economic development. Digital currency will create more efficient services and will serve as a mechanism for spreading financial services to under-banked regions of the world. In this light, we consider it appropriate that we implement digital currency as a method of payment across all our institutions in all cities and countries of our operations.”5

On June 13, 2014, the King’s College in New York became the first American school to accept Bitcoin payments6. In the school’s press release, President Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury praised the new partnership with Bitcoin.

“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 Thornbury.

In February 2014, the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA claimed to be the first American institution to receive a donation by Bitcoin. An alumnus donated 14.5 bitcoins, which equated to around $10,000, to the alumni fund7.

Of course, by deciding to accept Bitcoin, these schools have generated substantial marketing buzz. But if a student or payer does pay with Bitcoin, the school will also have to deal with the risk of Bitcoin prices falling dramatically. Since Bitcoin's birth in 2009, its value has fluctuated and any day could see a change of more than 5 percent8. This is certainly something that schools should research and take into consideration before diving into implementation.

The emergence and success of electronic currencies further reflects the stark presence that technology has in our daily lives. An increasingly large amount of our lives is now being moved online. From making restaurant reservations to attending doctor’s appointments9, society is moving closer and closer towards integrating technology into every aspect of our lives. It will be interesting to see how Bitcoin and other electronic currencies will fit into our increasingly web-based world.

1. http://nypost.com/2014/07/22/kanye-west-claims-victory-over-coinye/
2. http://www.compasscayman.com/cfr/2014/08/08/Can-bitcoin-become-a-major-currency-/
3. http://www.space.com/23732-virgin-galactic-bitcoin-spaceflight-payments.html
4. http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/East-End/48367/Trading-Dollars-For-Bitcoins
5. http://www.unic.ac.cy/about-us/university-of-nicosia-digital-currency-initiative/press-release
6. https://www.tkc.edu/news/kings-first-us-college-accept-bitcoin
7. https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2014/02/19/first-bitcoin-donation
8. http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/bitcoins-price-sinks-but-causes-little-alarm-among-traders/
9. http://healthland.time.com/2013/12/10/dr-phil-startup-brings-check-ups-online/

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