Change for College Students: Will Freshman Learn for Free?

20120501141221-1_0For parents, the best time to visit a restaurant is during the hours that kids eat for free. Now, prospective college freshmen might get “free” benefits of their own: a free year of online schooling.

In President Obama’s most recent State of the Union Address, he mentioned his $60 billion plan to offer community college courses free of charge. In turn, a philanthropist from New York, Steven Klinsky, was inspired to make a donation of one million dollars that can kickstart Obama’s plan by funding online venture edX, an online course offering overseen by MIT and Harvard.

edX would prepare high school graduates for College Board examinations in various disciplines, and any student who passed enough AP courses or College-Level Examination Program tests would allow them to start college as, essentially, sophomores. This would cut the cost of education down by 25%.

According to Klinsky, too many students are deterred from earning their college degrees by cost alone. “No one should be shut out of education after high school because of tuition cost or lack of access,” he says. His program – which would be the equivalent of a year’s worth of online college courses for free – would be universally available and not cost-prohibitive, which will reward dedicated students. It’s the same mindset that the POTUS has with his plan for free community college – reward and motivate responsible, hard-working students.

Though both endeavors are controversial, they have also awakened a desire for a college system that welcomes students, rather than driving them away with a price tag. After all, there are already plenty of places students can take college courses for free or nearly free, which are known as massive open online courses (MOOCs), but those credits are hardly transferrable – something students have been hoping would change for the past few years.  edX and Coursera, two businesses behind the free online course movement, are also looking into ways to certify MOOCs and allow students to receive credit for completing them.

“Central to the edX mission is the idea that education should be a basic human right, and we are pleased to work with Modern States as they seek to fulfill their vision of accessible education for every student around the world,” says the chief executive of edX, Anant Agarwal.

Klinsky, the philanthropist moving the free education movement forward, says he’s not interested in making money – he’s just looking to expand the realm of free, accredited education.