College tuition is soaring, thanks in large part to subsidized student loans, which artificially inflate the price. And what really happens at college, anyway? How much is learning and how much is an opulent rite of adolescent passage for a coddled and decadent generation?
(Hmmm. Wonder what side I'm on....)
But stripped to its essence, it's a place to learn stuff from people who know stuff. And if that's the case, why exactly do you have to be there?
You don't. From WaPo:
“Massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, have caught fire in academia. They offer, at no charge to anyone with Internet access, what was until now exclusive to those who earn college admission and pay tuition. Thirty-three prominent schools, including the universities of Virginia and Maryland, have enlisted to provide classes via Coursera.
For his seven-week course — which covers advanced math and statistics in the context of public health and biomedical sciences — [Johns Hopkins University professor Brian] Caffo posts video lectures, gives quizzes and homework, and monitors a student discussion forum. On the first day, the forum lit up with greetings from around the world. Heady stuff for a 39-year-old associate professor who is accomplished in his field but hardly a global academic celebrity.
“I can’t use another word than unbelievable,” Caffo said. Then he found some more: “Crazy . . . surreal . . . heartwarming.”
And a lot cheaper. Look, it's probably not for everyone, but I've always thought that if I could go back to school, I'd do it in a heartbeat. And this time, I'd learn something.
No, that's probably going too far. But there is something nice about the democratization of technology. As a conservative who isn't thrilled with the birthright vibe that our elite institutions convey -- there's something wrong, after all, when 4 of our past 5 presidents went to either Harvard or Yale -- these kinds of developments can only be a good thing.