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Here's how to skip college and go straight to grad school—at MIT

Apple CEO Tim Cook gives the commencement address at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Jun. 9, 2017.
Boston Globe | Getty Image
Apple CEO Tim Cook gives the commencement address at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Jun. 9, 2017.

College can be expensive. In fact, Americans are currently paying off an approximate $1.4 trillion 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).

Students can do so through the MITx MicroMasters, which has no degree requirements — not undergraduate or even high school — for students to sign up, according to Boston news site WBUR. 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.

Passing students in the MicroMasters Data, Economics and Development (DED) policy program 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 master's 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.

Professor Eric Lander teaches a class at MIT in 2013 for a video produced by edX.
Christian Science Monitor | Getty Image
Professor Eric Lander teaches a class at MIT in 2013 for a video produced by edX.

"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, an MIT vice president of Open Learning and mechanical engineering professor, in a video.

But don't think the classes are easy. The five online courses and final exams 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 site.

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

Currently, there is also a MicroMasters program offered for Supply Chain Management (SCM), however admission to the blended SCM master's program does require a bachelor's degree.

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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This story was revised to correct that the MicroMasters Supply Chain Management program does require a bachelor's degree.