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The University of Texas system will quadruple the number of schools involved in EdX, which offers free online courses to anyone over the Internet. Texas joins the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard and MIT. A modest fee will be charged for those who want certificates for completing a course.

Steven Mintz at the Institute for Transformational Learning said that raising tuition by an average 7 percent annually over the past 30 years and soaring student debt sees US universities facing a fiscal cliff with state and federal aid declining.

Anant Agarwal at EdX and MIT said the shift to online college-credit courses is occurring three to five years faster than expected because of demand from students and universities.

Jeff Sandefer at the Acton School of Business says EdX and Coursera will hasten the flight of full-price customers to less-expensive alternatives, accelerating the demise of traditional academia.

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