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First, the idea of driving the cost of a residential education down via digital media is very compelling. Shortening the time spent in formal "college" would help many families for whom college is not a viable alternative due to financial constraints or other issues. In fact, it's a 25% discount. Pretty awesome sounding for many.

However, there is a reason that college lasts 4 years - the relationship building, learning and growing process of late adolescence/early adulthood cannot be a corner-cutting experience. That 4 years serves as the foundation for a lifetime of understanding, empathy, collaboration, friend-making and other "soft skills" that are critical to valuing the hard "education" one consumes in "college". It can and must be consumed over time, and 48 months is a proven growth arc for most young men and women.

What I would propose instead is something more radical: Make the MIT undergraduate education 100% tuition free. Then, as a consequence of a serious fiscal mandate, MIT drives costs from the undergraduate enterprise to as low a level as possible. This can (and should) include digitization of material in every form, a reduction in the number of traditional (and expensive) classrooms (in favor of flexible project space and/or overhead recoverable research labs), energy improvements, and the creation of a permanent internal financial oversight committee tasked with understanding and identifying inefficiencies and/or redundancy in services or programs, eliminating or reducing those where there is identifiable duplication or "dead weight loss", and require discipline within the student services (MISTI/PSC/DAPER/UROP/OME/etc.) division in managing program expenses and demand.

MIT is the wrong kind of place to put the contraction of the four-year residential learning experience on the ballot. These young men and women are future world and technical leaders, truncating that training shortchanges the future of humanity. But what is really compelling is how can MIT deliver arguably the best residential education in the world in the most efficient way as possible - and for free - to every eligible student whose background warrants admission.

That, at least to me, is a world-changing idea.

A New Financial Model, Cost reduction strategies, Financial models and pricing structures, Education & Facilities, Educational experiences, Academic year, Global Implications of EdX, Global implications of edX, free education