How to Acquire an Elite College Education for Less Than $7000

After attending college in the late 80’s I became skeptical of the "received wisdom" approach to education I encountered there. I strongly believed that real truth and understanding could only be found through a Socratic Dialogue of systematic doubt. Instead each course was taught as if the facts presented were truths handed down by God to be memorized. After reading the very revealing Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich, I gained confidence in attempting a Socratic Dialogue directly with the immortal books. This approach has taken a long time and is still ongoing. However I believe I have discovered a straightforward approach to achieve an education level that is the peer of any elite undergraduate college in the modern world. This wouldn’t have been the case 70 years ago when colleges were far better, but it is now.

This will take 4 to 5 years. Pick a season and work for 3 to 4 months to pay for living expenses for the rest of the year while studying. If you have to live at home or with roommates to afford that then do so.

Your study plan will be based on 7 books. Each book will take 4 to 12 months of intensive study to work through one at a time. You will study to completely master the material in each book. You will seek out inexpensive tutors that are easily found on college campuses to help with this task. They often charge $10 to $20 an hour. Interview tutors until you find the right ones for each book. If possible try to find a tutor who will read or hopefully reread the books at the same rate as yourself. Meet with your tutor every 1 or 2 weeks for a couple hours to go over corrected homework and engage in a Socratic Dialogue. If you need to fill in gaps from your high school education, that will become apparent while working through the 7 books and your tutor will assign supplementary reading. During these 4 years you will also want to do some networking for intern and apprentice opportunities, if at all possible to be done during the 4 working months. If it’s not possible to work as an apprentice during the 4 years of study, that should be your goal after graduating.

That’s the meat of the course. The dessert is getting a recognized college degree. You will do this by taking your final year of study in a distance program at either Empire State College or Open University. These colleges allow testing out of other courses, so you will do that for the other 3 years. You’ll want to be in communication with either of these 2 from the start about your plan and progress. Make a 4.5-year study schedule of the chapters of each book under advisement from your tutors and college. You may have to skip some chapters depending on your ability and commitment. Be sure to stay on top of this because these books will require a tremendous amount of work. Your payback however will be literally priceless.

Here are the 7 books, in the order they should be studied:

  1. Complete Works of Shakespeare or part of that in combination with a literary anthology to be assigned by a tutor. Be sure to get plenty of writing assignments. 5 months.
  2. History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. Engage in a lot of Socratic Dialogue. 5 months.
  3. The Making of the Modern Mind by Randall. Engage in a lot of Socratic Dialogue. 5 months.
  4. Man, Economy and State by Rothbard. Engage in a lot of Socratic Dialogue. 5 months.
  5. What Is Mathematics by Courant and Robbins. Work every problem and ask for additional ones. 5 months.
  6. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Abelson, Sussman and Sussman. Work every problem and ask for additional ones. 8 months.
  7. Lectures on Physics by Feynman. Work every problem and ask for additional ones. 10 months.

By claiming your inheritance of human achievement in truth, knowledge, science, virtue and art, you will also be well prepared for a glorious future of achieving freedom and prosperity.

There should probably also be an 8th book that would be a general world history, including of art. Any suggestions? Reading additional books by Rothbard would also be a great idea, especially This one. Given current circumstances, everyone of every education level should read This one.

March 11, 2009