According to College Raptor, the cost of college has consistently risen year after year. Since 1987, college tuition has increased by about 225%. The average college costs for 2017-18 for a public two-year school, including tuition, room, and board, equals about $12,000 compared to the average price of $3,000 in 1987. Here’s a little more perspective: A Harvard graduate in 1988 would have paid $17,100 in senior year tuition (in 2017 dollars). Now in their 50’s, that graduate has to pay about $45,000 in tuition for their child to attend the same school.

On top of the expenses, college may not be an option to consider due to work, family, and other conflicting diversions that adult life brings. Luckily, there are options outside of universities to receive higher education. Here are a few options, free and inexpensive.


  • Enroll in free online classes. While online education may have at one time seemed laughable, the Internet offers extensive courses through thousands of schools, including some of the most prestigious, such as Cambridge. Even better, a lot of the classes are of no cost to the student. The popularity of these types of courses led to the creation of MOOC (massive open online course). One prominent example of MOOC is edX a provider that hosts courses from respected schools, including Harvard and MIT, Columbia, and the University of Texas. While the classes are free, students have the option to pay a small fee for a certificate of completion.
  • Start or join a book club. According to the Pew Research Center, 24% of U.S. adults (28% of adults 50 and older, 20% of adults under 50) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year. However, neuroscientists conducted a study at Emory University that showed reading offers multiple benefits to brain function on a variety of levels. Reading exposes the brain to more vocabulary, which leads to higher scores on general tests of intelligence. The Huffington Post reports that reading also improves memory function and lowers mental decline by 32 percent. Reading enhances empathy, might fight Alzheimer’s disease and can help the reader relax and sleep.
  • Find and attend lectures. Lectures are an expected part of college life; however, a classroom isn’t the only place to find them. A quick online search of relatively local bookstores and museums should show discussions, talks, and readings that offer stimulating material to those interested in learning. Even more, those who can’t seem to find a close by lecture, or can’t afford to travel, only need the internet. Online platforms such as TedTalks, and even Youtube, offer a considerable amount of informational and inspiring lectures and discussions.