Students were able to claim $100 worth of BTC in exchange for filling out a survey, equating to roughly 0.3 BTC at the time. The project was spearheaded by students Jeremy Rubin and Dan Elitzer, who raised $500,000 from university alumni and representatives of the Bitcoin community.
The project was intended to encourage exploration into digital assets and foster the campus as a global hub for crypto research.
With 3,100 students capitalizing on the offer and close to $200,000 worth of Bitcoin going unclaimed at the time, the university distributed roughly $33.8 million worth of BTC at current prices.
While many of the students presumably spent their freely obtained Bitcoin stash, with the MIT coop bookstore launching support for BTC as payment for textbooks, school supplies and other MIT merchandise from September 2014, Bloomberg spoke to one student who still holds the Bitcoin MIT gave her seven years ago.
Despite the value of 0.3 Bitcoin falling from $19,500 in mid-April to nearly $11,000 today, MIT alumni Mary Spanjers described her experience with cryptocurrency as “truly remarkable,” adding:
“Most of us thought it was a bit of a joke.”
Bloomberg also caught up with other MIT alumni who had quickly spent their Bitcoin, with several participants lamenting they had spent it on groceries or restaurants, including a nearby sushi joint that accepted Bitcoin as payment. Online forums suggest other students spent their crypto on beer, shoes and other trivial expenditures.
Christian Catalini, an MIT associate professor who oversaw the Bitcoin Project, estimates that 10% of participating students had cashed out their BTC within two weeks, while 25% had exited as of the project’s completion in mid-2017.