“Free Online Education Is Now Illegal in Minnesota”

Will Oremus, Slate: “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.”

I’d draw some instructive moral from this regulatory train wreck, but better not: if my Minnesota readers found my comments to be educational, we might all get in trouble. Update: Minnesota backs off (h/t Gitarcarver and others)


  • If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota.

    If you promise not to learn anything would that be acceptable?

    But Ms. Grimes said the law the letters refer to isn’t new. “This has been a longtime requirement in Minnesota (at least 20 years) and applies to online and brick-and-mortar postsecondary institutions that offer instruction to Minnesota residents as part of our overall responsibility to provide consumer protection for students,” she wrote in an e-mail.

    She is another brain dead bureaucrat. How can she say that with a straight face? How do you protect a student by preventing the student from taking a free course? Is she going to demand that Concera refund the money that the student didn’t pay for the course? Clearly there is a need for tar and feathers in the state of Minnesota.

  • Welp, best shut off the internet going in or out to Minnesota. Any act of going on the internet to educate yourself about anything is technically free. Ergo, verboten.

  • Is it okay if they have to pay money to their ISP?

  • A discouraging news story. But at least tobacco litigation lawyers haven’t gotten involved yet:


  • Thank you, Minnesota! You are making Mississippi look better all the time!

  • Another of the many (swarms) of laws passed among other reasons so that Lavrenti Beria can find a law you’ve broken, since no one can even know them all, much less follow them all.

    On the the other hand, most laws are followed out of respect, and when the law loses respect among the citizens, it cannot be enforced even by the Lavrentia Beria’s of the world unless the jury system can also be disposed of. More and more our system cries out for relief and it will be up to citizens serving on juries to grant it . . . .

  • Protecting entrenched Academia has NOTHING to do with it!

    You cynic!

  • Well, this screws me over rather handily. I use Coursera extensively since I’m a low-income individual and can only afford to take one or two classes at community college a semester (and that’s with the Pell).

  • I’d draw some instructive moral from this regulatory train wreck, but better not: if my Minnesota readers found my comments to be educational, we might all get in trouble.

    Sgt Schultz was right all along!

  • Pardon me if this is a stupid question, but haven’t Minnesota’s officials heard of the Commerce Clause? They need Congress’s permission to keep ANY interstate product or service out of their state, and I hope they will never get it.

  • According to the original Slate article and a new article on Slate found here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/10/19/minnesota_coursera_ban_state_won_t_crack_down_on_free_online_courses_after.html

    Minnesota has decided to back off of their enforcement of the law.

  • Does the First Amendment apply in Minnesota? The state really think it can condition your receipt of information on payment? That’d be a fun case to litigate. Like shooting fish in a barrel.