For quite a while now we’ve been hearing about the staggering cost of higher education. In March, The New York Times reported that student aid was falling even as the costs of going to college were rising. Just a few months later, in the same paper, Joseph Stiglitz suggested that student debt was crushing the American dream. Also this year, two books came out saying that American higher education had better get ready to face a reckoning because these days degrees are just not worth what they cost.

I’ve been reading about this trend while simultaneously researching MBA programs. They’re all shockingly expensive; the most prestigious schools can cost over $90,000 per year once you’ve factored in tuition, housing, and other expenses. While I would like to have an MBA, I don’t want to walk away from the experience with $150,000 in debt, thank you very much.

The other innovation that has entered the higher education scene in a big way is the massive open online course, or MOOC. MOOCs are increasingly available from some of the most prestigious universities - through the universities’ own sites or through sites like Coursera or edX. Some people have even suggested that in the future it may be the norm for all higher learning to happen virtually.

All of this has gotten me thinking:

Would it be possible to create my own MBA using free online courses and other cheap or free materials?

I’ve looked at what’s out there, from Coursera to ItunesU to TEDTalks. These resources may be relatively new, but there is a ton of material out there. Many of the courses on Coursera even operate like real college courses - with homework assignments and discussion groups. I’ve compared the free course offerings to the curricula of top business schools. And the answer I’ve come to is this:

Yes, it is possible. And I’m going to try. 

In my next post, I will introduce the sole member of the first entering class of The No-Pay MBA self-administered degree program - me!

I hope you’ll support me in my journey, and I’d love to hear from others who are trying the same thing. Comments welcome.

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