Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Future is (Almost) Now: Free College Education

Image: Naypong /
Some have pontificated that the future of all education will be free. Others have said this future is "already here." I think we're still in transition, since so many are still not bought on the idea, even though resources may be available.

The Problem

Education is expensive.

With rising tuition costs and the fact that student debt is at over a trillion dollars in the US, the idea of going to college for free sounds too good to be true. But what if it is a feasible reality for more than the average Joe in the future?

And what if "this problem" exists or is aggravated with our perceptions of what education is or what it should be?

The Potential Solution

I don't even want to attempt to compile a list of free educational resources and courses after seeing this amazingly awesome post at Mark and Angel Hack Life. (Seriously, if you get a few moments check out this fabulous resource.)

I will recommend, however, that the reader check out Open Courseware (OCW) Consortium, as it indexes free online courses from many higher education institutions. Go here for their free course search.

However, many balk at the idea that online education is even real education. I've even had my MLS questioned when I've told people that the majority of my program took place online. And when you throw in the word "free," traditionalists run out the door screaming.

"Traditional" Education is Overrated 

Self learning is a great if not the greatest form of learning. Free online course modules makes it so easy for those who can't afford to get an education in a traditional classroom setting. Many people are surprised when I tell them I did a self-learning home-school program during what would have been my sophomore and junior year of high school. I didn't even graduate from high school, but got my GED at 17.

Now I have a masters of science in library and information science, my work experience includes the medical, retail, and web industries. I have worked for four different public library systems in numerous positions and capacities. A so-called "traditional path" of education is not a precursor for success or job options.

Not for Cogs (aka people who need to be told what to learn, not how to learn)

With an education system obsessed with standardized tests and rote memorization of facts, those who succeed in a free and egalitarian education system, won't be those who need to be told what to think, but those who know how to think and have the motivation and passion to teach themselves.

True philosophers or lovers of knowledge will thrive in this new future where education is or will be accessible to all. I think there will still be mentors in the future. We still need to learn HOW to reason, and HOW to critically think.

Teach a man to reason and he'll think for a lifetime. -Phil Plaitt

Public Libraries OF THE FUTUUUURRREEE! ::echoes into infinity::

Can libraries of the future look like this? Pretty please? (Image Source)
The role of libraries will greatly change over the next few decades. This is an opportunity for libraries to turn into a physical place where people can attend their virtual campuses. It is so important that small and large library systems realize the importance of filling this kind of role, which ultimately lives up to the spirit of what libraries have done for centuries: connect people to information.

Many people in rural communities, like the one where I currently work, do not have access to the internet or a good computer at home and only get it at the library. The library is also a community resource where people can go to help their community, participate in programs and classes, etc. However, the more people need to be connected to new methods of information gathering, the more libraries will need to evolve to be places that give people access to the technology (software, hardware, and cloudware) resources they need to succeed in their business, education, whatever.

Questions I Ask (Myself) You

Should we be so concerned about degrees? Especially in fields like the arts or humanities?

What do you think the implications would be of free college education for all? Is this good or bad? Should education be something that should be reserved for those willing to pay the big bucks, or should it be free for everyone?


  1. I think that there's a huge difference between an education and a degree; unfortunately, the degree is what employers tend to look at.  At the same time, I've learned more from reading and exploring on my own than I ever did in formal education.

  2. Grace, I completely agree. I also realize the degree is what employers tend to look at. However, I think as we change our perceptions of education and learning, so may future employers. I also think that we could see an era where we could get actual degrees from completing online programs, for free. Although, I hope we move to a standard of evaluating critical thinking rather than evaluating how well we pass exams where we regurgitate facts.

  3.  I hope so.  I'm doing my MLS through an online program because it allows me to be able to work and still go to school.  I think that online programs are likely to increase in popularity.


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