In this economy, free online college seems like a dream come true. Reports are showing that today’s new college students are graduating with massive student loan debts, and nary a job prospect in sight. Free online college classes are a great option for those who are looking to further themselves academically, without burying themselves in debt. A common plan for unemployed professionals unable to find work a few years ago was to go back to school for their graduate degree, with the hopes of a better economy when they graduated, but sadly they graduated to an economy that was not improved, and were now further in debt. With free online college classes, unemployed professionals can increase their skill-set, increasing their hirability, for free.

Popular conference TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), has introduced their TED-ED free online distance learning program. TED was founded in 1984 with the simple mission of spreading ideas. Initially beginning as a yearly conference that brought together people within the worlds of technology, entertainment and design to share ideas with others, it has rapidly grown into bi-annual conferences held in the United States and the United Kingdom. TED firmly believes that knowledge and ideas should be shared freely, around the world, and this is the idea behind the creation of TED-ED. TED-ED is currently being launched as a series of videos on TED’s You Tube channel, and they have aggressive goals to grow TED-ED into hundreds of videos within the year. Video content is uploaded by teachers, professors and educators worldwide, and set to animated videos by volunteer animators.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has granted free online access to their classes through their new program, the MIT Open Courseware. MIT has the philosophy that higher education should be available for everyone and anyone who wants to learn and has made over 2,000 of their courses available as free online courses for anyone to take. The self-guided lessons are available in both undergraduate and graduate courses , and some offer video lectures to offer a classroom-like experience. Since you do not receive a degree through this program, there is no enrollment required.

Stanford is another major university offering free online coursework to whomever wants to learn. This program allows online learners to virtually “attend” classes, take quizzes and even interact with the instructors. Students will even receive a grade for their work, and a letter of accomplishment from the professors at the end of the course. The letters will not name the university by name, but will be from the Stanford-associated professor who taught the course. This is an outstanding opportunity to receive education at one of the top universities in the country, for free

Free online college courses are a fantastic way to expand your knowledge and be a continual learner, without sacrificing hard-earned income.