Personally, I went to a top-10, big-10 school. If you wanted to go into research, you had that opportunity. If you wanted a silicon valley internship, you had that opportunity, if you wanted a startup position, you had that opportunity. The money is optional, if you can stick to federal grants/loans, you can consolidate them all into a single payment, and when you get your job out of college, start paying it off, as far as I can tell, it's the private, non fed loans that should be avoided like the plague.
I loved my school, I loved my college life, I loved my friends, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
You can't just waltz into University buildings and be all "sup dawg???". People are at least pretending to do work, you won't be able to access the network, you won't have common classes to complain about together, etc. etc. We're somewhat suspicious of non-students, too.
Those are social-status problems [and thus, I could answer snarkily, amenable to social engineering.]
A University is a clique of people who pay a lot of money to attend a University. If the only technical advantage everyone gets from paying the money is access to the lectures, and in the long run the lectures aren't what matter, then why is anyone paying the money?
"University", in that sense, seems to be a Prisoner's Dilemma set up by lecturers to rob students. No one individual can stop paying, because it excludes them, even though the group as a whole would be better off if they all just rented a few apartment buildings together instead of paying massive amounts of tuition.
Example experience that could not have been had outside college, by definition: after taking the introductory computer science with perhaps more enthusiasm than was wise in my first semester, I TAed the course for my remaining 5 semesters. Obviously, my experience was not typical. On the other hand, if your experience is typical, then you certainly need to learn from courses rather than trying to do it all through self-study.
That'll teach you ^_^.
MIT's new core courses are so teaching intensive the department is enlisting undergraduates to help and I think it's generally been possible for a few undergraduates to get some formal teaching experience of that sort.
I've always done some teaching informally and found the experience to be extremely valuable, it teaches you all sorts of things including a much better understanding of the subject itself.
While it's probably true in the marginal case—the 10x increase in tuition to go to an Ivy League school certainly doesn't cause a 10x increase in education, but it may well cause a 10x increase in connectivity—it's false in the general case. To simplify that: some university is good, but more university is not necessarily better. And you could probably get all the learning you wanted from just having your "apartment building" hire lecturers, and establish a good working relationship with professional research institutions (supposing most of the Ph.Ds, displaced, would end up working at Bell-Labs-like places.)
Students generally don't have any money. Even if those same students put all the money into your new group idea, there would need to be some form of central administration that manages all of the hiring, courses, etc. Also, it's not really free to join if the students need to rent the buildings, equipment, and lecturers (and wouldn't be fair to the ones that pay if it was).
As a student, I would still need to pay for infrastructure, a professor, and any other costs associated with the class. In addition to this, most students have no idea what they want when they start college. They need to be guided. Unless there is some sort of central authority creating all of the classes, I think it just wouldn't be practical.
If you joined for free, what would be the purpose unless you were going to actually get an education/pay for class?
For the connections. That was my original point.
> most students have no idea what they want when they start college
They should speak to a guidance counsellor, then. No one invests in a business not "knowing what they want"; why should investing in an education be any different?
Is it really that difficult to find these connections on your own? sites like meetup.com have local groups where you can just go and meet up with other like-minded people. In some groups (especially college towns), many are students. I have gone to many different groups and made lots of connections in my area. I graduated and got my bachelor's degree in '06, but there are many people I meet that have not. Most of the time, the subject doesn't even come up.
"They should speak to a guidance counsellor, then. No one invests in a business not "knowing what they want"; why should investing in an education be any different?"
I really don't see how this is any different than a university. You would still need some sort of central authority that you would be giving all of your money to (and they would be managing classes and everything else).