MINNEAPOLIS -- The cost of an education at a premier university can easily reach more than the price of a home mortgage.
The cost of tuition alone to attend Princeton is nearly $40,000, even more to attend Stanford, and to earn a four year degree at the University of Pennsylvania, plan on spending $156,000, which doesn't include room and board.
Despite this, Martin Rosales didn't pay a penny for the online course he took through the University of Pennsylvania.
"It's free," smiled Rosales. "So what more can you ask for."
Coursera.org is a website where Rosales could have chosen one of dozens of courses from a number of Ivy League universities.
"Who would have thought," laughed Lisa Bennett. "I'm taking a course and the last time I looked there were 70,000 people around the world taking this class."
From her iPad, Bennett can be anywhere and in the middle of a history class from Princetion. She said she never really paid attention to history while growing up and now she gets all caught up by the best.
"What I've spent so far is four bucks on a book from Amazon," she said. "That is what it cost me to take this class from Princeton."
Founded by a pair of Stanford professors, Coursera's goal is a future where the top universities are educating millions of students online for free.
"It's always there any time of the day," explained Rosales.
Professors literally teach the course as if you were in the classroom.
A camera records the lectures and although you have to keep up with the pace of the class, you can watch them at your leisure.
"If you have something to do you can always pause the video, go to whatever you need to do and you can come back later and it's still there," said Rosales.
Rosales and Bennett both said it's simple to sign up and if it becomes too much, it's even more simple to quit.
If you complete the course you will earn a certificate, but the one thing you will not earn is college credit.
"To me it's not about the credit, certificate or whatever it's more about what I get from the class," said Rosales.
"I'm always one of those people that was never happy with less than an A, I'm really kind of that way," said Bennett. "But at this point it's the learning, it's the understanding."
Coursera isn't the only "free" online college.
EdX is a venture between Harvard, M.I.T, and Cal Berkeley. There's also Udacity, headed by a Stanford computer science professor and Google fellow Sebastian Thrun.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)