NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s been a major boom in the number of colleges across the country letting students study cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, and the technology that makes them possible.
CBS2’s Clark Fouraker checked out New York University, the first university in the nation to let students major in the new financial tech.
Inside the Stern School of Business, the Bitcoin wave has taken hold. Professors had to move their class about cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology they’re developed with to a bigger room.
“We hope to establish a groundwork so that the students can understand what’s really happening under the hood, so that they can understand both the legal and the business implications, and prepare them to go out and tackle this new market,” adjunct professor Andrew Hinkes said.
The new market involves digital currencies, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, and technology called blockchain, which is used to show the record of every cryptocurrency transaction. Mustafa Khan’s one of the more than one hundred students from a variety of majors at NYU enrolled in the class this fall.
“In the environment we live in today, it’s become especially relevant to get a hold of how new technologies work and how they interact with the legal system,” he said.
Stern was the first school to offer undergraduate courses in cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Now, other universities have taken notice, there’s a growing competition for students who want to study the technology.
“This is a grassroots movement,” Adam White from Coinbase, a crypto-exchange, said. “These are students saying, ‘hey, university, I want to take a class on this."”
Coinbase released a study saying almost half of the world’s top universities offer at least one course on the subject, and one in four students want to take the classes.
“I think they see the development, the birth of a new industry,” White said. “In many ways, we look at things like Bitcoin and Ethereum and blockchain as the internet 3.0.”
Stanford and Cornell offer the most classes nationwide, with many of Cornell’s happening at their Roosevelt Island campus. Students studying everything from computer science to law are enrolling in the courses, convinced today’s best jobs demand some knowledge of the decentralized money system.
“The big established companies will definitely be partners in this whole equation, while the startups in [financial technology] will likely invent the new cool stuff,” associate professor Kathleen Derose said.
Even alumni are coming back to class, curious about digital currency, which, as an investment, can be risky because of volatile price changes. There also have been warnings from regulators about potentially unlawful online platforms.
“There’s a few people who graduated some years ago but have come back to sit in on this just because of the novelty and the edginess of the topic,” NYU Finance Department Chair David Yermack said.
NYU has doubled its offerings this school year, a boom they say is a sign of the financial times.