College students are often cash poor. But thanks to a new project at MIT, students will at least have some virtual walking-around money.
Two MIT students have raised more than $500,000 to distribute $100 in bitcoin to each of the university’s 4,500 undergraduates, a donation that organizers hope will spur acceptance of the digital currency and innovation around its use.
Bitcoins, which have been in the headlines for their wild price fluctuations and susceptibility to hackers, can be stored in a “digital wallet” and exchanged in virtual transactions. A handful of area businesses accept them. “Giving students access to cryptocurrencies is analogous to providing them with Internet access at the dawn of the Internet era,” said Jeremy Rubin, a sophomore who came up with the idea for the project, which was announced Tuesday.
The distribution will make MIT the first place in the world where bitcoin is widely distributed, organizers said, creating a kind of laboratory to study how students use it and how businesses respond. Project organizers plan to work with researchers to study the impact. Rubin has teamed up with Dan Elitzer, a graduate student and founder of the MIT Bitcoin Club, to make MIT a hub of bitcoin ventures and research. MIT alumni donated the bulk of the $500,000.
“They see it as returning the favor,” he said.
The money will be distributed this fall into individual digital accounts. In the meantime, students will help businesses set up bitcoin payment systems.
“It’s a pretty significant amount of money coming on to campus,” Rubin said.