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How to skip college and go straight to MIT grad school

CNBC logo CNBC 7/14/2017 Ali Montag

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College can be expensive, in fact Americans are currently paying off an approximate $1.4 trillion dollars in student loan debt. But now there's an opportunity to skip an expensive four years and still go to grad school at one of the nation's most competitive universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The program, called MITx MicroMasters has no degree requirements — not undergraduate or even high school — for students to sign up, according to WBUR, a Boston news site. There is also no GRE requirement.

Here's how it works: Prospective students enroll in a set of required online courses and then take one or more proctored exams at a testing facility. Those who pass the courses and the test earn a MicroMasters credential from MITx. They are then eligible to apply for a master's program on campus at MIT. According to the MITx site, students can also use the credentials to apply to Masters programs at several other other universities.

If accepted at MIT, students enter a "blended" master's program that combines the work they completed online with an additional semester on campus.

"Instead of admitting students at the beginning of the first term, we sort of invert it, and we make the first term open to everyone in the world pretty much," says Sanjay Sarma, Vice President for Open Learning and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT in a video.

Currently, there is a program offered for Supply Chain Management as well as one in Data, Economics and Development Policy.

In June, the first class of MicroMasters students received their credentials, according to MIT News. Over 180,000 participated in the Supply Chain program, over 1,100 finished all five required online courses, and more than 600 earned a passing score on the final exam.

But don't think the classes are easy. The five online courses and final exam are the same level of difficulty as classes taught on campus, and carry the same amount of work as a traditional semester, according to the program's description.

The cost for each class (including exams) ranges from $100 to $1,000, depending on the student's ability to pay.

The MicroMasters program is implemented through edX, a non-profit founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012. Harvard also has classes on edX, which anyone can take for free, or earn a verified certificate for a fee, but there is no comparable Master's component.

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