Free University Project
Jack C. Star, Director
Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: How are you going to make any money with this site?
- A: When I start going on and on about the Free University Project to anyone who
will listen, I am always astonished that this is the first question asked. The answer is -- I don't
intend to make any money with this site. It is a gift, offered as a public service. It is in the
tradition of the free schools that sprung up in the late Sixties and early Seventies, whose core
ideas were eventually coopted by mainstream higher education with all of the altruistic spirit
carefully wrung out.
- Q: How long will this site be maintained?
- A: As long as there is Cyberspace. Funds are being set aside to maintain this site
in perpetuity. (With a tip of the hat to Masayoshi Son who built a fortune with Softbank in Japan
and then proceeded to buy out the COMDEX shows and Ziff Davis among many others. I heard
him tell about the start of his company -- he and two employees -- how he turned his dreams into
reality and, now that he was 40 and raising a family, was thinking ahead 300 years. Benjamin
Franklin thought far ahead, too when he endowed the Franklin Institute, which is still thriving.)
- Q: Why are there no cool graphics?
- A: Because at the present stage of development of the Internet the use of graphics
which do not directly enhance the subject matter increase download time. While for some people
with superfast machines this is not a problem, for others with older machines, slower modems, or
limited access to the Internet, decorative graphics cost them time and money. Time also being
money they are penalized twice. In addition, I want to make sure these pages are readily
accessible using web tv devices.
- Q: What are your qualification/credentials?
- A: A couple of degrees from UCLA, a graduate year at the London School of
Economics, a seminar leader and producer in adult continuing education, an active interest in the
alternate education movement of the Seventies. I do not have a terminal degree. (Don't you just
love that term.) I have also paid my dues to the computer industry as a software developer,
systems integrator, and technical writer.
- More importantly, I have put the site together. I have demonstrated that it can be done. I
was hoping some college or university would take this initiative, but their administrators are more
interested in collecting fees for Distance Learning than providing anything free. (Even though I
think they are being short-sighted and would benefit in the long run.)
- Q: Who do you think will benefit most from this project?
- A: Hopefully all current or prospective students and their cash-strapped parents.
Part of my motivation for this project came when I heard horror stories of the amount of debt
graduates are carrying; part of it was out of frustration that institutions of higher learning were
constantly wringing their collective hands about the rising costs of tuition, but not taking this
simple step to control them. But more particularly, when I learned that a high percentage of
students were no longer graduating within four years. Financially, the extra time spent is a double
whammy: 1) they have to pay to attend an additional semester, or two or three, and 2) they lose
the income they would have derived if they graduated in four years. Using a credit-by-examination
strategy combined with guided independent study, students can pick up most, if not all of the
credits they need to graduate within four years; and many could cut a full semester, or two,
thereby cutting their debt load substantially.
- (With thanks to Eugene M. Lang of REFAC, who I met in the late Sixties when I
was bureau chief in Milan, Italy for McGraw-Hill World News and he was peddling low-tech
American know-how overseas. A few years ago he was in the national spotlight for his work with
high school students. When I called to congratulate him, he told me about the number of students
who take five years and more, and I have been tracking it ever since. And also a nod to George
Soros, who is using some of his wealth to promote higher education internationally, and, of
course Walter Annenberg, whose foundation, working with the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting, provides rich course material carried on many -- unfortunately not all -- PBS
- Q: Why did you choose the CLEP exams to start?
- A: Because I don't like to reinvent the wheel. College-level proficiency exams,
such as the CLEP, DANTES, PEP, TECEP are well established, well recognized and accepted by
thousands of colleges and universities. Some external degree granting state colleges, like Regents
College of the State of New York and Charter Oak in Connecticut also give substantial credits for
successful completion of subject-specific Graduate Record Exams. They are also cheap. They lend
themselves to the ethos of the Internet -- open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Students are not
bound by college calendars as exams are offered many times during the year at many sites across
the country, as well as overseas.
- Q: Why do you think there will be enough lecture material posted on the Web to
meet your goals?
- A: At the present time barely one-tenth of one percent of the universe of college
professors are using the Web as an instructional medium. As non-tenured faculty
discover that as they demonstrate their capability to use the Web their employment opportunities
will improve, they will post more course material. As senior faculty realize that their
lectures need not fade away after retirement, more of them will also participate. (We offer free
help and Web space to encourage them.)
- And, of course there are those institutions (museums, corporations, libraries, government
agencies, publishers, for example), and students, and a whole range of individuals, who post
educationally-related material. Their numbers will increase dramatically. In addition, there is the
entire English speaking faculty around the world to consider, not to mention faculty who post in
- In the famous words of Al Jolson: "You ain't seen nothin' yet."
Your questions and
comments are always welcome.