Cryptocurrency Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer open-source software, has come a long way since its inception in 2009, with its value changing constantly. Photo courtesy of CBC.

Roosevelt University could be the next school on the waitlist to accept Bitcoin from students as a form of payment. This transition would allow for Roosevelt students to buy campus goods with the cryptocurrency.

Under the new proposal, if a student wanted to purchase food at the cafeteria, order and buy their textbooks at the bookstore for their classes, or most importantly, pay for their tuition dues at Financial Services, they can use Bitcoin to cover those costs. There are also going to be classes offered in cryptocurrency, with the school currently exploring ways to implement it into its curriculum.

Following the precedent set by The King’s College in New York City, New York seven years ago, Roosevelt would become the second school in the U.S. to allow students the option to use Bitcoin as payment for their campus needs. They would join five other schools across the globe in also accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment at their institutions, with Financing and Promoting Technology (FPT) University in Hanoi, Vietnam being the latest school to join this list in late 2017.

School bursar Dennis Hill, who described Bitcoin as “a piece of the future,” said that several departments at Roosevelt have been researching the opportunity that the cryptocurrency presents for Roosevelt.

“The Business Office, Office of the Bursar, Financial Services and the College of Business have been working tirelessly, looking into the innovation Bitcoin can bring to Roosevelt,” Hill said. “We have been looking into ways where financial aid can accept it as a form of tuition payment and where the Business Office can allow our amenities such as the cafeteria to facilitate transactions with crypto. We also want to use our respective academic programs to educate our students about Bitcoin and other crypto.”

Additionally, Roosevelt plans to use the transition to Bitcoin to utilize their academic programs and teach students about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum and others. Litecoin was an early atlcoin which was initially a Bitcoin spinoff and Ethereum is the most actively used blockchain where anyone can make their own decentralized applications. Blockchains are the ledgers which record all the cryptocurrency transactions taking place. Dogecoin was based on a meme and invented as a joke to mock cryptocurrency. Unlike the other cryptocurrencies, there is no hard cap on Dogecoin production. This altcoin also shares some features with Litecoin.

The move was also cited as another means to allow the university to remain at the forefront in its mission for social justice. Hill said allowing students to pay for campus goods with Bitcoin was intended to serve their best interests. More specifically, it was included to aid international students from countries such as Cyprus and Argentina. These nations have been crippled financially under a central banking authority. Students from Algeria, which has outright banned what they call “virtual currency,” were also emphasized.

“We want to allow students, most importantly international students, who come from parts of the world that don’t necessarily trust their central bank, an opportunity to afford an education with the currency they feel works best for them,” Hill said.

According to their website, Bitcoin was created in 2009 by an unknown entity by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, who has gone through great lengths to keep their true identity concealed. When they left the project in 2010, the developers working with the cryptocurrency at the time continued to aid in sustaining the growth of its community.

This form of currency was the first of its kind because it was an open-source, peer-to-peer decentralized network. What this means is that there is no central bank or authority middlemen powering the network. This network is powered by the users. Their website describes Bitcoin. from a user’s perspective, as “cash for the internet.”

Roosevelt University could be lucky number seven in terms of universities accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment. Photo by Alejandro Caballero.

“Bitcoin has gone through great lengths to get to where it is now, sometimes at the expense of others’ freedoms,” said finance professor Nicole Holstrom. “As its value increases, you are beginning to see that people are able to buy schooling and vehicular transportation. Pretty soon, you will be seeing people purchase real estate with Bitcoin.”

Bitcoin first garnered attention in the spotlight when it was the main form of currency used in transactions on the internet black market Silk Road. The cryptocurrency was attractive to users because the paper trail of transactions for illegal goods proved nearly untraceable when using Bitcoin. This is because complex wallet codes were used along with transaction codes that couldn’t be decoded, which allowed the peer-to-peer network to operate. After Silk Road was shut down and creator Ross Ulbricht was subsequently arrested in October 2013, Bitcoin’s value would eclipse the $1,000 mark about a month later.

It was only fitting that four years later, on the anniversary of Bitcoin’s breach of the thousand-dollar threshold, it would surpass the $10,000 mark for the first time ever. As of March 15, Bitcoin’s value was $56,322.22 according to Coindesk. However, the price of Bitcoin is always fluctuating, reaching over $60,000 over the weekend and falling below that threshold again by the beginning of the week.

“I believe that such a step for Roosevelt would have the biggest implications on the students that go here, especially students who come from overseas to study here,” said junior finance major Chris Camacho. “If Roosevelt began allowing students to use Bitcoin to pay for what they need, that’s a game changer right there.”

Roosevelt would have to find a merchant exchange that features a portfolio entailing their expertise in cryptocurrency exchanges. Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland had partnered with Bitcoin Suisse AG, who handles their cryptocurrency transactions, while The King’s College signed with the merchant processor Coin.co. However, the merchant’s website is now defunct, and then-President Brendan Diaz’s LinkedIn page states that he has not assumed that position since 2015.

“The next step will be finding a partner that can power cryptocurrency transactions,” said Holstrom, who is heading the Bitcoin task force at Roosevelt. “The partnership will allow for Roosevelt to protect itself from the volatility of Bitcoin and probably provide a flat exchange rate.”

Possible suitors looking to guide Roosevelt through the next step would be financial consultants such as Daniels Trading, financial institutions Akuma Capital and Athena Bitcoin or financial derivatives exchange giant CME Group. It is unknown what interest has been generated from these institutions or what direction Roosevelt will take as it moves forward with the new implementations.

“We’re looking forward to a long partnership with whoever wishes to work with us on this venture,” Hill said. “They might charge us a percentage fee for every Bitcoin transaction made through their platform, but the protection from price fluctuation will be worth it.”

With discussions having evolved into finding a partner to power Bitcoin transactions from students to Roosevelt, it is clear that Bitcoin is gaining more and more traction in everyday life. Such a transition will be huge as the cryptocurrency seeks to improve its value and maintain its scarce supply.

“I’m excited. My mom and my dad have been investing into Bitcoin. We could probably avoid student loans altogether with this move from Roosevelt,” Camacho said.

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