A master’s degree provides an advanced level of knowledge, and can result in promotions, raises, and even new career opportunities. It’s a great investment – but it is an investment. Grad school tuition averages $30,000 at public schools and $40,000 at private ones. However, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a master’s program that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
That’s not all. Unlike master’s programs at most schools (and even other master’s programs at MIT), admittance is not based on grades and entrance exams. In fact, applicants don’t need a bachelor’s degree – or even a high school diploma.
MIT’s Department of Economics offers this innovative master’s program in data, economics and development policy. It starts with an online program that dispenses students from the usual requirements. Instead, students take five online courses. Each class is free, but, depending on income level, the exam for each course ranges from $100 to $1,000. The next step is to pass a proctored exam at a designated testing facility (which are located globally). After passing the exam, students are awarded a MicroMaster’s, and can then apply to MIT’s master’s degree program.
The actual program is on MIT’s campus in Cambridge. Admitted students take two semesters of classes, in addition to completing a capstone project and writing a master’s thesis. Financial aid is available to help students pay for coursework and living accommodations.
Worth the commitment? Consider this: The average person with a graduate degree will earn $400,000 more over a lifetime than an individual without a graduate degree. And, an MBA has a $1 million return on investment.
Increased access and affordability
MIT’s program reflects a trend toward providing greater access for students and/or making advanced degrees more affordable. For example, Harvard Law School recently dropped its mandatory LSAT requirement, allowing applicants to also take the GRE. Also, Georgia Tech offers an online master’s degree in computer science for only $7,000.
Anthony Carnevale, research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, tells GoodCall® that he applauds MIT’s efforts to offer more cost-effective options with liberal admissions requirements. “It’s a fairly progressive idea, and MIT is one of the most generous schools in the country.” Carnevale explains that many other colleges might want to follow suit but are hindered by revenue issues, whereas MIT has deep pockets.
“These types of social contributions are invaluable to those who might not otherwise be able to obtain an education that would allow them to contribute meaningfully to the workforce and earn a good salary.” And, he notes that MIT benefits in terms of reputational value and recruiting.
Kenneth Matos, vice president of research at Life Meets Work, tells GoodCall®, “MIT has often been on the forefront of alternative modes of education, such as MITx, which offers free online learning.”
Matos also applauds the school’s decision to use unconventional methods to determine admission to the master’s degree program. He notes that there are three problems with the standard admission process:
- Standardized test scores have been shown to have little correlation with learning or likelihood of degree attainment.
- Letters of reference are often from people whose ability to assess the prospective student’s ability to do graduate level academic work in specific disciplines is unknown.
- Personal statements can be coached, edited, or otherwise produced with assistance beyond the prospective student’s own abilities.
“Admitting students based on their performance is a much more complete picture that will likely lead to greater success (grades, degree completion, job placement, etc.) for students admitted into the program this way rather than traditional means.”