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This is an opinion editorial by Peter Conley, a product advocate at Vercel.

Education is free.

It has been for many years now.

In my self-directed pursuit of understanding Bitcoin, I’ve forced myself to learn more than in any other period in my life. More than any previous job, more than all of my undergraduate experience and more than my full-stack web development program at Bloomtech.

In essence, I learned more from “Bitcoin College” than from “real college.”

With the Student Loan Debt Relief Plan at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it’s bringing many great questions to the surface:

  • Is $80,000 for the material you can get free on the internet worth the price of the credentials it affords you?
  • Aren’t most undergraduate experiences just four-year-long binge drinking vacations that don’t teach you relevant job skills?
  • Why are these business professors who don’t own a business teaching students about business?
  • Why the fuck is Keynesian economics still the norm?
  • Is there a better way?

To answer the last question: Yes, I believe so.

Before I lay out a vision for a specialized college alternative centered around Bitcoin, let’s unpack the current college product bundle.

Institutions will argue that “you get so much more than an education!” This can be true, but let’s explore what that “more” actually is and how it can be provided à la carte.

The Standard College Product Bundle

Information And Knowledge

The vast majority of the knowledge you obtain in college is from professors who haven’t participated in the free market for years. The textbooks you read have no incentive to provide honest feedback or editing because colleges require students to purchase them regardless of the accuracy of their content.

The cold, hard truth is information has been commoditized and has been packaged into ones and zeros on permissionless servers you can access at will; it’s effectively free on the internet.

Furthermore, I can make a good argument that the knowledge you learn at university, by its design and incentive model, can’t compete with the information on the internet.

Social Life And Personal Development

A typical college student has terrible sleep hygiene, eats processed foods, drinks to get drunk and lives for the weekend. As a student, you unconsciously pick up lessons on nutrition, dating and lifestyle from “adults” who are four to seven years away from having fully formed brains.

And they call this a higher educational environment?

The only thing I learned in college was how to suppress my emotions with alcohol. Yes, responsible students exist, but they aren’t the majority.

Environment

A lot of dorms were built in the 1960s and could be mistaken for prison barracks. Plus you’re paying for all the facilities, amenities and infrastructure you never use and don’t give a shit about. It’s all one big bundle. Take it or leave it.

Of course, some campuses are beautiful, and some top-tier schools do have nice living facilities, but they are the minority. Worst of all, they’re stuck where they are built; there’s no optionality. You have to suffer four Boston winters to join the MIT alumni network.

Alumni Network

Alumni networks can absolutely be a game changer for your career. The problem is that they follow a Pareto distribution, meaning that the vast majority of the spoils go to the top, i.e., Ivy Leagues, Stanford, MIT, etc.

The return on investment of paying $200,000 to be an alumnus of Kenyon or Oberlin diminishes every year. All the while, the value of a proper social media following increases.

I don’t know about you, but I’m 100 times more likely to help and connect with someone I admire on Twitter than someone I have zero connection with that happened to graduate from my alma mater (SUNY Geneseo).

I’m of course the minority — for now, but humans like to help and work with people who share their interests. The sad truth is I rarely shared common interests with the 5,000 students I shared a college campus with.

How To Create A Better College Bundle — For Bitcoiners

What if we could build a better bundle? Cheaper, more niche and students learn about the most important asset of this century: bitcoin. Furthermore, the essays and content they create while learning won’t be stored behind gated learning platforms.

Students write to build an online audience — a more valuable network than any alma mater — and to get valuable feedback to improve their skills.

Here’s my vision:

Knowledge And Information

All information will be free. If a student wants to read “The Bitcoin Standard,” I bet if we ask Dr. Saifedean Ammous he’ll donate as many as we need.

We don’t tell students specifically what to learn, they follow their natural curiosity — as long as it’s Bitcoin content — but in order to truly learn it and integrate it, they have to produce their own content. They must write about what they learned and share it publicly, or podcast about it or create a YouTube channel. Get feedback from the market and improve your communication skills.

No more writing college essays that never see the light of day.

Social Life And Personal Development

You will cook meat, you will not sleep in a pod and you will be angry that Modern Monetary Theory is still a thing.

In all seriousness, you could create a culture and structure for the students, centered around healthy habits instead of wrecking your brain and gut.

Of course, some 18-year-olds would choose Penn State over Bitcoin College to drink themselves into oblivion, but there will be a small market for a true personal development environment. This will most likely weed out the lazy ones and attract those that want to grow and learn.

How do you do this? You create a marketplace for like-minded students to connect and you facilitate getting them a physical environment in which to study.

Environment

Network effects also work for learning subjects. Don’t you think that if you’re trying to learn French you’d have more success if all your roommates only spoke French? You’d only watch shows in French or with French subtitles. You’d speed up your pace of learning, at least. The same will be true with learning about Bitcoin.

In terms of physical space, you don’t need to build anything. You can just rent it — or it can be a free space.

Let me paint the picture for you.

Option A - Renting

Find a student housing aggregator like Unilodgers or even a dorm that has excess capacity. You and your fellow Bitcoin students become roommates too.

Option B - Local Learning Pods

Perhaps there are enough Bitcoiners in the same city and all they need to do is create an “education pod,” like so many did during COVID-19.

The pod could be in the basement of one of the student’s homes, or even in a public library. It all comes down to connecting with like-minded, eager students.

How do you create this physical network? With a marketplace for a custom college experience, which is why I’m building Unbundl.ed. It’s effectively Airbnb for college alternatives.

Alumni Network

This may be the best part. You’ll be walking into one of the richest alumni networks imaginable.

Plus, Bitcoiners are the most passionate and most forward-thinking network on the planet.

If a young person approaches me and says they went to my alma mater I really don’t give a shit, but if they tell me 50% of their net worth is in bitcoin, I will run through walls to help them.

Making It A Reality

Is this possible or is this just a blog post?

It’s absolutely possible.

This community could do it.

It’s time to take back the world from the overly schooled and grossly undereducated.

This is a guest post by Peter Conley. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.