Friday, October 19, 2012

Minnesota bans learning

In another example of unintended consequences and government stupidity, the Minnesota government has banned free online learning websites from offering classes to the citizens of Minnesota. Yes, that is right. Banned. Why? Because of a state law meant to "protect" people.

"The law's intent is to protect Minnesota students from wasting their money on degrees from substandard institutions."

But as the article points out, no money is being spent and no degrees are being awarded. The classes are free and only individual classes are offered. There are no degree programs.

Here is a quote from George Roedler, manager of institutional registration and licensing at the Minnesota office of Higher Education.

"It's not like we're sending the police out if somebody signs up online," Roedler adds. "It's just that the school is operating contrary to state law."

Well I guess it is reassuring to know that if I did live in Minnesota and signed up for a free education class the police wouldn't kick my door in. Thanks George.

So what is Minnesota's solution to this obvious mix up? They want the institutions affiliated with Coursera to pay a registration fee! Wow. Luckily George thinks this wouldn't be too hard for the schools associated with Coursera. You hear that Stanford and Michigan? You're A OK for the citizens of Minnesota, but they are going to need some money first.

"George says he had hoped to work with Coursera to achieve that, and was surprised when they responded with the terms-of-service change notifying Minnesota residents of the law."

Really George? Surprised? You think Coursera has the manpower to go around to every state and meet some ridiculous licensing guidelines? And even if they did, is that how we want them using their resources? To placate rent seeking politicians?

So here you have a group of people and universities providing a great service at no cost to the consumer and Minnesota wants to jack up their costs of doing business in order to meet some state law that doesn't even really apply in this case. Forehead, meet desk.

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