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College Students, Not Crypto Traders, Hold the Key To Web3 Mass Adoption

Whatever the doubters may say, the blockchain revolution is upon us. But it’s not crypto traders who will drive this change. It is the millions of college and university students donning caps and gowns this month, and all those who will follow them onto the graduation stage in years to come.

These young visionaries have the power to transform society and pave the way for Web3 adoption, fueled by a desire for social change and seamless entry into professional life.

Throughout history, universities have incubated social and economic change and, more recently, have played an instrumental role in the discovery and development of new technologies and their transfer into society at large.

Higher education has an added reason for embracing blockchain: This transformative technology will make it possible to create permanent records of academic achievement, easily accessible from anywhere in the world.

And those institutions that do embrace it will, I believe, help ensure that their graduates enter the workforce fully prepared to take the decentralized internet to the next level.

The Power of Alumni

The inability to easily access transcripts, degree verification and other credentials can be a major source of stress and frustration for current enrollees and alumni.

And in a world that is increasingly demanding incontrovertible proof of our achievements before we can apply for jobs, professional licenses, graduate school places or, in some cases, even foreign work permits, it can be something much more damaging.

There are a host of sound reasons for an institution to do everything in its power to prevent such headaches from hurting its standing with current and past attendees.

While student numbers are rising on a global basis — to about 220 million now from 100 million in 2000, according to the World Bank — they have fallen in the United States from a 2010 peak of 21 million. This, coupled with an influx of institutions from countries challenging the long-standing academic dominance of the United States and the U.K., has tightened competition for applicants and the tuition they pay.

As a university’s largest stakeholder group and permanent community, alumni can play a critical role in its success or failure.

Illustrious alumni burnish a school’s brand. Not only can they help attract quality applicants through direct word of mouth, but public expressions of pride from illustrious graduates in where they went to school can raise an institution’s profile. Alumni can also help support enrollees and new grads by mentoring, providing internships, or by giving talks in the classroom or on career days.

For many universities, alumni donations and endowments are an important source of funding. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) said former students donated $12.25 billion to U.S. universities in the 2021 fiscal year. That was up 10.8% from the year before and represented 23.3% of all voluntary funding.

Importantly, some university rankings are also beginning to factor in alumni success and satisfaction in their rankings, which are key determinants of student choice.

The Value of Credentials

We must remember here that academic credentials have value that students often pay considerable sums to obtain. As customers of an institution, they have the right to credentials that are portable, permanent, resilient and controlled by the graduate, not the institution.

And yet alumni often have to go through a cumbersome process to obtain transcripts or other academic proof from the schools they attended. And in cases where institutions have closed, changed hands or been damaged or destroyed by conflict or disaster, that process can become all but impossible.

I have witnessed this first-hand more than once. I was reminded during a recent hiring interview when a promising designer from Ukraine alerted me that she had no way of proving her art degree because her university was in an active war zone.

Blockchain technology makes it possible to vastly improve the experience of both alumni and active enrollees.

In addition to easing access to digital degrees for graduates, we should explore ways to certify course loads and grades and to create digitally transferrable credits which are vital for graduate school applications or transfers between institutions or across national borders.

The Adoption of Blockchain

Luckily, universities have really got the memo on blockchain’s potential.

Scores now offer courses in Web3 and blockchain entrepreneurship — sometimes with a little bit of encouragement. Take New York philanthropist Jan Van Eck, who recently donated $5 million to USC Marshall to create courses and curricula focused on crypto, NFTs and other digital assets.

Many post-secondary institutions are also developing hubs dedicated to blockchain research with funding from industry, which hopes to channel the collective brainpower of leading institutions toward solving long-standing challenges.

Some pioneers — USC, Berkeley and MIT, among them — are taking this to the next level: piloting ways to use blockchain technology to create digital academic credentials.

This is both wise and timely. Not only is Gen Z experimental by nature, but they have also grown up with an understanding of the threat Big Tech poses to data sovereignty.

With early exposure to blockchain’s power, today’s students will become tomorrow’s Web3 champions, helping to break Big Tech’s monopolistic grip on personal data for good. And with their numbers, influence, and unwavering desire for change, they’ll reshape the digital landscape for the better.

(Nick Dazé is the CEO and co-founder of Heirloom, a software-as-a-service company for personal and enterprise identity management.)

Airbnb and Summer Search have teamed up to create a pilot program that gives low-income families free accommodations for college graduation trips and college visits.
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