Students taking the Wharton School’s new blockchain economics certificate can pay their tuition in cryptocurrency, according to an announcement Thursday.
The University of Pennsylvania business school is the first Ivy League institution or business school to offer cryptocurrency as a payment option, the institution claims in its announcement. The six-week certificate program costs about $3,800 — or roughly 6% the value of one bitcoin — and aims to give professionals the tools and background to incorporate blockchain or digital assets into business practices.
Offering cryptocurrency payments was a natural decision, said Guido Molinari, a managing partner at Prysm Group, a blockchain consulting company that partnered with Wharton on the six-week course.
“We thought it was almost hypocritical to do the opposite — you’re talking how businesses can implement blockchain and digital assets and then as an organization not accepting digital assets as payment,” he told EdScoop.
As of Friday, about 10% of users who signed up for the January 2022 course paid with crypto, he added. The University of Pennsylvania is not currently offering tuition payments for any other courses in cryptocurrency, and Molinari said this wasn’t intended to be a testing ground for it.
Wharton, whose alumni include entrepreneur and outspoken cryptocurrency investor Elon Musk, is one of the many colleges and universities around the country offering courses on blockchain technology. Wharton’s program is designed to give practical use cases for blockchain and provide clarity for business and finance leaders who may have heard of decentralized banking and other digital assets, but want to “go beyond Bitcoin,” Molinari said.
The curriculum includes blockchain protocol, types of digital assets, smart contracts and blockchain applications, decentralized finance, valuation and investing, as well as how to pick a blockchain and launch a digital asset, according to Wharton’s website. One of the major aspects of the course, Molinari said, is providing a framework for financial analysts to consistently assess digital assets, like they would traditional investments.
Colleges and university blockchain efforts are largely focused on degree programs and research initiatives, though King’s College in New York began allowing its students to make cryptocurrency tuition payments in 2014, and a handful of other institutions around the globe also accept cryptocurrency. Penn accepts cryptocurrency gifts of more than $10,000 for fundraising, according to its website, and announced a $5 million bitcoin payment for Wharton’s finance innovation center in May.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency have shown some scattered applications in the public sector. Ohio began accepting business taxes in cryptocurrency in 2018, but suspended the program a year later. Miami last month partnered with a nonprofit called CityCoin, accepting millions of dollars in profits from cryptocurrency mining. Two local government chief information officers recently told StateScoop that they were still searching for appropriate use cases for their governments, though the technology had caught their attention.