After graduating in 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Journalism I realized that I had been in school, of one form or another for 18 years of my life. Being in my early twenties, that means that most of the time I have been alive has been spent in classrooms.
Granted, after high school, college was a gift in more ways than one, I learned what I wanted to do in and out of the classroom. It was education on my terms, not me sitting at a desk trying not to fall asleep as the teacher tries to inform me about letters that symbolize numbers.
But once I got my degree I realized that I needed to take time to do other things and decide whether to go back to school down the road.
As a form of a Gap Year I joined a ten month service term with AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps, and from that I received an Education Award, a sum of money I can use to pay for education.
Education in terms of student loans or tuition costs. I had not thought too intently on going to graduate school, mainly because I was unsure of what I wanted to study and tired of the school book lifestyle.
Now that I have put some miles and minutes between me and campus life I do miss it, but most importantly I now know that I want to go back. I like the structure school provides while simultaneously inspiring me to be creative with it and make it my own.
So now I have the want to go back, the problem? I am still not sure of what I should study, and I am not about to pay thousands of dollars if I do not know what I want to do.
A family member mentioned free online courses, and truthfully my initial reaction was disinterest. Having just spent a whole lot of moolah on education, it was hard for me to believe that any quality courses were offered for free.
But, I am not one to run with my initial reactions on things, I am the research type that needs to see firsthand if things really are what they seem. An empirical learner, if you will.
So I began to research and happened upon edX. They offer free courses from Harvard, Berkeley, Boston University, University of Queensland Australia and many more. The courses offer a certificate of completion at the end and sometimes the piece of paper does cost money, but nothing compared to the money it costs to be a full-time student.
Like any college course, edX classes have lectures, interactive labs, quizzes and tests. The best part?
It is on my schedule and there is absolutely no risk.
I can access course material anywhere there is Wi-Fi, and I do not have to throw money at an uncertain cause. And it gets better, they offer a variety of courses from Architecture, Business, Engineering, Medicine to Language courses.
I want to make sure that going back to school is what I really want right now or if it is just what Barney Stinson refers to as “Graduation Goggles”, as if I am somehow romanticizing the memory of the atmosphere of college versus the actual schoolwork. My first edX class begins January 10th on International Law, and I am excited to test the waters. To dive back into the pool of education, (to weirdly continue with the water allegory).
All this consideration of free education got me thinking about two things: 60 Minutes and Bernie Sanders.
An episode of 60 Minutes covered Sal Khan’s story in his creation of Khan Academy. A nonprofit that stemmed from one YouTube video that the MIT and Harvard graduate made to help his young cousin with Algebra. While the organization has expanded immensely from when CBS originally aired that piece, I imagine the feedback and praise Khan has received since has been even more positive.
Khan Academy has lessons on k-8 math to Organic Chemistry and Macroeconomics. The idea behind the free courses being, “Changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. All of the site's resources are available to anyone”, according to their posting on www.volunteermatch.org.
Bernie Sanders comes to mind because an integral piece of his presidential campaign was offering free college education. His campaign on free education exclaims, “In a highly competitive global economy, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country and our future, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That shortsighted path to the future must end”.
Sanders is not alone in his convictions, Green Party’s Jill Stein raves about the importance of forgiving student loan debt altogether. Now Sanders is part of a proposal to make college education free for families that earn less than $125,000 per year in New York, according to a story "Politico" published. California is said to be making strides towards it as well.
As Sander’s campaign website states, the concept of free education is not new in fact it has shown positive results in Germany, Norway, Sweden and others.
My thought is, why not? Education should be accessible to everyone and the idea of putting a crazy price tag on it is irresponsible. While there are necessary costs to consider and serious changes to be made to accommodate free education, it is doable. We just have to get a little John Lennon with our mindsets and stop holding onto the archaic traditional arguments.
So, until the day that tuition is free or at the very least more affordable I am taking advantage of what is out there until I figure out if I am ready for the workload and what I want to study.