Free online education illegal in Minnesota? Well, that’s discouraging.

According to Slate, “the grand prize in this week’s unexpectedly heated competition for most creative use of government to stifle innovation has to go to Minnesota. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the state has decided to crack down on free education, notifying California-based startup Coursera that it is not allowed to offer its online courses to the state’s residents.”

Oof.

I teach in Minnesota, and to a large extent, my job and the institutional health of my college depends on students paying for online courses. My colleagues and I work hard to make sure our online classes offer at least the same quality of learning as our brick’n’mortar classes do. So I suppose my legislators feel like they are protecting us.

But still, how short-sighted and generally chilling toward, you know, people learning things.

Until some entrepreneur and/or trillionaire-philanthropist figures out how to offer free accredited degrees online, Coursera et al aren’t the competition. Nope, they’re exactly the sort of resource we hope our students will become curious and passionate enough to pursue before and after our classes. (Heck, during class, too–definitely better than the Facebook, sports tickers, and celebrity gossip scrolling up their smartphones right now.)

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