Free Education to Replace Skyrocketing Tuition Fees?

Free Education to Replace Skyrocketing Tuition Fees?

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The cost of education varies enormously depending on what one studies and where. In the last few years, there has been plenty of hype about the ‘Higher Education Bubble,’ brought to the attention of the media by the Economist last year. This phenomena seems to be particularly prominent in the business-oriented fields worldwide and as an overarching situation in the US.

In response to this, many cheap(er) and free options have sprung up to tackle the question of learning for those who either cannot afford or do not want to pay the ever increasing fees. One tool that is consistent in this effort to circumnavigate fees is the Internet. By cutting the tradition costs of infrastructure, institutions can offer similar services for a cheaper cost. Also evident is the idea of crowdsourcing education.

Below is a short list of some of the free alternatives from institutes, both new and old, to tackling the rising prices of education.

1) University of the People: According to their website, UoPeople is “the world’s first tuition-free online university dedicated to the global advancement and democratization of higher education.” UoPeople is structured as an online university offering undergraduate degrees (non-accredited) in Business and Computer Science, with additional courses in Arts and Sciences including Intro to Economics, Intro to Stats, and Statistical Interference. With some big name partners who knows whether or not this will be a model that will continue for both them and copycats in the future.

2) MIT Open Courseware: MIT has taken a different approach towards alleviating some of the costs of higher education by offering all of their courseware free to the world. While their ‘About Us’ makes it very clear that this courseware does not grant any degrees or other credential from MIT, it does provide supplementary information for those interested in brushing up or getting some background on a subject.

3) Both Yale and Harvard offer a similar programs: Yale Open Courses and Harvard Open Courses where they have videos of a number of their professors teaching popular entry level courses.

4) Open Culture: With the tag line: ‘The best free cultural & educational media on the web,’ I was curious to see what they had to offer. I came across and entire section called ‘Economics: Free Courses.’ The website links to iTunes, Youtube and download options for all sorts of courses, including an Intro to Economics by UC Berkley’s Brad Delong, ‘Lectures on Human Capitol’ by Gary Becker of UC Chicago, and ‘Financial Theory’ by John Geanakoplos of Yale.

5) Udemy: A platform where anyone and everyone can both upload and teach a course, as well as take part in courses. It covers a wide range of topics and levels of education most of which are free, although there are a number of courses that are up to $200 to take. A quick search for courses with the keyword ‘economics’ brings up 26 separate courses including ‘Economics 159: Game Theory with Ben Polak’ a 24-lecture series which currently has 1343 subscribers and ‘Economics of Energy and the Environment’ a 22-lecture series with 1278 subscribers.

While all of these portals offer interesting and useful information, there are few people who would try and argue that these will be taking the place of traditional institutions any time soon. One problem that is evident in all of the above listed options is that at the end of the course there is no recognized certificates, credits, or degree. In an Op Ed piece in the Economic Intersection from April 25th, Brooke Falliot assesses the current stigmas associated with on-line higher education and the economy, particularly the attitude of hiring managers towards online qualifications.

If you have had any experience with the above listed institutes/portals or similar ones we would love to hear about it.

Photo Credit: uniinnsbruck