University students are excited about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and owning cryptocurrency as well.
According to a nationwide survey commissioned by crypto exchange Coinbase, 21 of the top 50 U.S. universities, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, now offer a class on blockchain technology or cryptocurrency, and at least 11 colleges offer more than one.
“Students today are really thinking deeply about economic issues and alternative economic futures,” Bill Maurer, the dean of the School of Social Sciences at the University of California Irvine, said.
“Teaching about this kind of stuff now can be really powerful for students that are trying to find their own way and envision what kind of possible alternatives there might be to the prevailing economic system.”
And that interest in alternative economics isn’t just relegated to the expected departments, such as finance or business or even computer science.
Instead, the Coinbase survey found that there’s high demand for crypto and blockchain courses across a diverse spectrum of students.
While 34 percent of computer science and engineering majors indicated interest in learning about the nascent technology, 47 percent of social science majors are interested in the same, according to the survey.
Speaking to the enthusiasm within the social sciences, or those related to the study of human society and social relationships, Maurer said, learning about financial systems prepares students in all programs for the job market today.
“There’s a huge demand out there, especially in the design space, for people that have the skills that we train anthropologists with, understanding the human side of technology,” he said.
Increase in interest
Meanwhile, universities like Cornell, Stanford, and Georgetown are beefing up their blockchain research opportunities to accommodate swells in curiosity.
And at New York University, David Yermack from the Stern School of Business said that to meet growing demand, his blockchain course will now be offered both semesters (when it was originally only taught during one), according to a blog post published by Coinbase outlining the results.
During the first session of the course in 2014, only 35 students enrolled. But in the spring of 2018, 280 students had enrolled.
Not only are students eager to learn, but an increasing number are also trying the technology out for themselves – 18 percent of respondents in the survey said they own some cryptocurrency.
Dan Boneh, a computer science professor at Stanford, who is also seeing rising demand for blockchain and cryptocurrency-related classes, he said:
“It’s a pretty exciting time. It feels like the beginning of something.”
Skills in demand
The surge in interest in education surrounding the technology is, in part, a reaction to the broader job market.
Benedikt Bunz, a doctoral student at Stanford, who spoke to Coinbase about the survey results, said cryptocurrency experts have an easy time finding jobs after graduation since such skills are in high demand.
Case in point, Coinbase is ramping up its efforts to recruit college students and recent graduates throughout this academic year.
Beyond the Ivy League schools included in the Coinbase survey, Howard University, a historically African-American college, and the women’s liberal arts school Smith College are two notable additions to McGrath’s recruitment plan.
Given the high quality of students that are showing an inclination towards the field, Boneh said he’s sure something groundbreaking will emerge over the next few years.
“I think [demand] has to do with a lot of talent going into the space. Very smart people are working on blockchain projects.”
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