Get the Best Education in the World, Absolutely Free!

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Bryan Caplan notes again that you can Get the Best Education in the World, Absolutely Free!:

The best education in the world is already free of charge. Just go to the best university in the world and start attending classes. Stay as long as you want, and study everything that interests you. No one will ever ‘card’ you. The only problem is that, no matter how much you learn, there won’t be any record you were ever there.

Robin Hanson actually did just that:

As a researcher at NASA Ames Lab in the late 1980s, I found it easy to sit in on classes at nearby Stanford. I sat in on many classes in many departments, participating often in class discussions. I never applied for admission, or paid tuition, but no one ever complained. One professor even wrote me a letter of recommendation based on my work for his class.

So anyone can learn at the very best schools for free, if they are willing to forego the credential. This free ride would probably stop if more than a few people took advantage of it. But in fact almost no one is actually interested in just learning, without the credential.

As Caplan notes, “we have another deep puzzle that the signaling model of education can explain, and the human capital model can’t.”

Leave a Reply