Editorial: Free education an important opportunity in today’s economy
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 28, 2012 21:10
Earlier this month, the state of Minnesota decided to enforce a very outdated state law preventing degree granting universities from offering free classes to people without the expressed permission of the government. The idea behind the law was to prevent people from wasting time and money on sub par degrees or classes.
Unfortunately, in practice, the wisdom behind this law was called into question as it forced the state to ban residents in the state from using an online startup site called Coursera. The site offered potential students a place to shop around and find classes that are offered for free by universities. The state said that because the universities that the site offered didn’t have permission from the state of Minnesota, Coursera could not be used in the state.
The problem here is very simple and very new to the modern age. In an economy when finding a job hunt is of crucial importance, not just for prosperity but for survival to put food on your family’s table, free college education is an incredibly valuable tool for people looking to get back into school at a later age. The state of Minnesota, in order to enforce a law that could not have foreseen the changes in the country, both economically and technologically, has restricted citizens of the state’s access to free education and information. Luckily for residents of Minnesota, the state promptly reconsidered its position on the matter and now allows residents to use Coursera, saying that they weren’t planning to knock down people’s doors for using it in the first place. They will, however, continue to seek proper permission from the universities that offer courses through the site.
There is almost never an excuse for the government, or anyone for that matter, to restrict the free flow of information and make it difficult for people to better themselves through education. While it is possible for people to be swindled by a fake university or waste time and energy getting credentials that don’t mean much in the job market. However, it is not up to a state or federal government to save people seeking education from themselves. The information should be available to all and its merit should be judged based on what the student feels and his or her xpotential employer. Restricting access to information and education should be considered the biggest open-source Internet faux pas that a state legislature or governing body could make. While Minnesota did make a colossal error in judgment, it did correct itself as quickly as it could, sacrificing blindly following the law for a logical compromise that works in everyone’s best interest. However, this will not be the last that this generation sees of this kind of controversy and a definitive and comprehensive solution needs to be found before it’s too late.