Why rack up $100,000 in student debt for a degree in art history or underwater basket weaving when you can learn that same usless information for free.

Watch all the TED talks (www.ted.com)
TED stands for technology, entertainment and design—and really, in the modern world, is there any other kind of education? These lectures—“Riveting talks by remarkable people”—are recorded at events held around the world and are made available for free online. You can watch them whenever you want, you don’t have to take notes and there’s no pop quiz afterward—and no one to congratulate you when you finish watching all of them. 

Download college courses online
Some of the world’s premier learning institutions—Harvard, Oxford, Stanford—are making materials for entire classes available online for free. Textbooks not included, and you can’t email the professor, but this is a great way to expose yourself to college-level learning without spending a dime. Check out “The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food” at Yale, “Physics and Chemistry of the Terrestrial Planets” at MIT or “American Economic History” at the University of California-Berkeley.   

Attend conferences
Some conferences are expensive, invite-only affairs with famous speakers and fancy buffets, but many are public and free (and usually foodless). The University of Colorado’s Conference on World Affairs is a great example: for about two weeks every spring a daily slate of interesting panels and provocative speakers are offered up for free public consumption. The great thing about conferences is they give you a chance to interact with intellectuals and test your smarts against the world’s brightest—or you could ask an idiotic question and get laughed out of the auditorium. A learning experience no matter what happens, right?

Get an apprenticeship
And not at the village blacksmith’s—unless that’s what your into, which is really medieval of you (in a creepy way). Many niche professions don’t require a college degree, but they do require spending many hours learning the ins and outs of very specific, usually hands-on work. Perhaps you’ve got a thing for cobbling shoes, wiring a house or making furniture by hand? Usually professionals who take on apprentices are full of knowledge and eager to pass it on because they want their legacy, and that of their profession, to live on. Take advantage and take yourself to the top of a trade.

Read Wikipedia in its entirety
Though the veracity and accuracy of Wikipedia should always be cross-checked against other sources, this vast digital trove is filled with at least a little bit of information on just about everything in the world—particularly new information about cutting edge innovations, political developments and pop-culture milestones that you just won’t find in that printed set of encyclopedias at your parents’ house. 

Join the military
The new post-9/11 GI Bill, is designed to double down on the U.S. military’s financial commitment to educating those that serve. Just sign up, survive a couple of tours of duty in one of the world’s hotspots (or land a cushy desk job in intelligence) and when you get out you can go a get a degree in dance therapy courtesy of Uncle Sam. According to newgibill.org, the updated bill provides “upfront tuition payments directly to the school, a monthly living allowance and a book stipend of $1,000 per year.”