University of the People intros NFT diplomas, crypto payments

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Global online higher learning institution – the University of the People (UoPeople) − has introduced crypto-currency-based initiatives for students and donors, in pursuit of becoming a “university of the future”.

The online university has established the first endowment fund which is seeded with crypto-currency donations and also gives students the option to pay course fees with crypto-currency, as the digital currency becomes more mainstream as a form of trading globally.

It also announced it will begin providing its graduates with digital diplomas via non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and integrate content about crypto-currencies and blockchain technology into its curriculum.

Founded in 2009, UoPeople bills itself as the first non-profit, American-accredited online university dedicated to providing access to higher education globally, to help qualified high school graduates overcome the financial, geographic, political and personal constraints keeping them from university studies.

The higher learning institution says it has been witnessing strong demand for online higher education from South African students, with a significant portion of its student-base being local.

“As the university of the future, it makes perfect sense for us to create our endowment in the currency of the future, as well as provide our graduates with digital diplomas as NFTs,” says University of the People president Shai Reshef.

“UoPeople has developed a new model of higher education, and crypto-currency is a new model of finance. We have a responsibility to educate our students about how crypto-currency is transforming the way the world conducts business.”

The university says it is accepting Bitcoin and Ethereum digital currencies.

Albert Wenger, managing partner at Union Square Ventures, and his wife Susan Danziger, founder of The Eutopia Foundation, contributed the first $1 million in crypto-currency to create the endowment fund in Coinbase. The university says it has raised an additional $1 million in digital assets and aims to reach $10 million in initial funding.

“In many countries, it is extremely difficult or very expensive to transfer funds internationally. As the majority of UoPeople’s more than 117 000 students are international, being able to pay for courses using crypto-currency will make it easier and less costly for these students to transfer money.”

The global crypto-currency market size is expected to grow from $1.6 billion in 2021 to $2.2 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 7.1%, according to research firm Markets and Markets.

Transparency of distributed ledger technology and growth in venture capital investments are the key factors driving the growth of the market.

The university says it is strengthening its partnerships with its support foundations − such as the Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation and Hewlett Foundation − to bring education to more South African students at a fraction of the normal price.

An NFT is a secure digital file which validates ownership, and is stored on the blockchain system, where each NFT can represent a unique digital item, and thus is not inter-changeable.

UoPeople says its digital NFT-based diplomas will be tamper-proof and can be easily shared with potential employers. Having digital diplomas that can be accessed from anywhere around the globe at any time is critically important to many students – particularly to refugees or graduates who need to provide proof of their education to employers abroad.

UoPeople will also integrate content on financial technology, including crypto-currency and blockchain technology, into its curriculum to ensure all of its students learn about this dynamic and rapidly-growing field.

By introducing crypto-currency and blockchain technology-focused courses, students and future entrepreneurs can get a better understanding of how crypto-currency or blockchain technology can help their organisations grow, it says.

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