If you’re starting as an undergraduate at MIT this year, there’s $100 coming your way. The catch — if you consider it one — is that it will be paid in Bitcoins.
It’s part of an experiment by two existing students, sophomore Jeremy Rubin and MBA candidate Dan Elitzer. They want to discover whether having a large number of Bitcoin holders in the same physical location changes the way the crypto-currency is worked.
The pair have somehow persuaded a couple of dozen donors to hand over a total of $500,000 to fund the project. That must have been quite the pitch given the pair are effectively saying “give us some cash and we’ll hand it out to students.” Around half the money came from one former MIT student, Alexander Morcos, who now runs a high-frequency trading firm.
The program isn’t being run by MIT itself, though the pair did consult administrators and officials have wished them success.
Under the program, all new undergraduates will be offered the $100 equivalent in Bitcoin payments. They’ll have to actively confirm that they want to receive it, but there’ll be no other conditions and no cash alternative. There’s nothing to stop a student accepting the Bitcoin payment and immediately exchanging it for dollars. Any money that isn’t take up from the $500,000 will be put towards projects to boost Bitcoin infrastructure.
Although the payments won’t be made until the new academic year starts, the pair have announced now so that students have time to think about the offer and open a Bitcoin wallet, while local businesses can make preparations if they want to accept Bitcoin payments.
The idea of the experiment is to see if having Bitcoins widely circulated on campus is enough to make it more commonly accepted. The pair hope that this will be the case and that in turn the experiment will portray the cryptocurrency in a more positive light.
Rubin also believes that it could lead to students finding more creative uses for Bitcoins. For example, he suggests it could lead to a decentralized version of crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter.