We’ve written before about the foolishness of pursuing a graduate degree during an economic recession. This popular move–waiting out a recession in school–is actually dumb (see above). Under no circumstances should anyone spend an economic downturn piling on more debt for a degree.
But there’s one exception to the No Graduate School Rule. And that is the Sloan School of Management, the business school of MIT. Actually, it’s pretty much all of MIT.
The reason why Sloan is an exception is because you can take nearly every course offered at Sloan without paying a dime, without quitting your job, without finding a new place to live in ultra-expensive Cambridge.
And that’s because MIT now gives away its curriculum to anyone smart enough to learn it. It has posted its curriculum on-line for free. These days, this means a staggering 1900 courses. This number will grow.
You are probably sceptical about this. The so-called “Open-Course Ware” doesn’t grant any degrees, and MIT says it doesn’t count as an “MIT Education.” You won’t be able to hang a diploma on your wall. But here’s what you will be able to do: learn almost everything an MIT student is being taught.
There are some serious drawbacks. You won’t necessarily be surrounded by a bunch of other ultra-intelligent people who can serve as sounding boards for your ideas, peers to test and press you, and later as an alumni network to advance your interests. But all of these drawbacks are solvable.
If you want peers, take the courses with other smart people you know. You probably work with them right now. You probably know them from your undergraduate days. Sign up together, and take the courses in your living rooms. You can have educational dinner parties.
To substitute for the alumni network, join a club, a museum board and attend the higher end charity events. If you’re young, most of these offer discounts. You’ll meet powerful people and soon-to-be powerful people. Unlike in the days of yore, most of these things are open to all-comers. The days of a closed upper-end society are now lost to the shrouds of history. Take advantage of this. For around 10% of what you’d spend to get a graduate degree, you can have access to something that is probably even better than an alumni network.
What you can’t ever get is a degree or a diploma. If that’s what you’re after, you’ll have to pay up big time for it.
But why are you after that? Is it because you think it’s valuable to employers? That might be the case on a temporary basis. But this over-valuation of a degree will eventually be arbitraged away. The smartest employers will quickly figure out how valuable it is to hire an applicant who can demonstrate he took all the MIT Sloan Business School courses online, by himself, and mastered them. And 10 years from now, no one will know or care whether you got the degree.
Are you a follower or a leader? How you go to business school–paying through the nose or going for free–tells you all you need to know.
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