Yale? Been there. Brown? Done that. Stanford? Old hat. Berkeley? Check. Guillaume Dumas has attended all of these elite universities and it didn’t cost him a penny.
Between 2008 and 2012, the 28-year-old from Quebec took courses at some of the greatest learning institutions in the nation; Stanford, Yale, Brown and the University of California Berkeley. He would sneak into the classrooms and absorb as much knowledge and wisdom as he could and try not to get caught in the process. He generally would keep his unregistered, nonpaying status confidential. However that didn’t stop him from actively participating in lecture hall discussions and would even get into heated debates with professors.
In 2014, a yearly tuition to attend Yale was $44,000, Brown was an astounding $45,612. However for Dumas (An unfortunate last name) it was $Free.99. Despite not paying exorbitant tuition he still needed money to survive and he worked at cafes as well as writing papers for students. He lived at co-ops or other inexpensive student housing. However when he attended Brown and had no money, he was forced to take up residence in a sleeping bag in a tent on the roof of a house that a kind person allowed.
Dumas didn’t always pilfer Ivy League educations. His parents never went to college and were small-business owners. They thought that he should follow their lead and skip college. His mother thought he should become a butcher and his father believed he would make a decent wage as a lumberjack in rural Quebec. However Guillaume was never one to do the normal.
He attended LaSalle College in Montreal because like many of us he thought attending college is “what I thought I had to do.” College tuition in Canada is partially subsidized, and he was paying about $4,000 a year for his education. However Dumas was unsure what he wanted to do for the rest of his life and didn’t select a major. He had the impression that even paying $4,000 a year for an education that he wasn’t sold on was a waste of money. And that’s when he started going to college for free.
He left LaSalle and simply just started popping into classes at McGill University, which was conveniently right down the street. “It was so easy to look at the course listing and then just show up for a class,” Dumas said. “I thought, Why couldn’t I do this at other schools?”
He eventually saved up enough money to travel to the United States and set his sights high; attending classes at the prestigious Yale, Brown, then Berkeley and Stanford. He didn’t just soak up the curriculum, he also studied the social life on the campus.
In an article in Fast Company, Dumas explains his reasons for smuggling himself into some of the best colleges in the country:
“I think of it as an act of political protest. I was angry at how university education excludes people who cannot afford it. What happened to the belief that sharing knowledge and great ideas should be free?”
It was also an experiment to see if it was the knowledge and effort that earned the diploma or just the ink and paper diploma that quantifies the value of a degree.
He didn’t always pull off the charade, a U.C. Berkeley professor was extremely angry when they discovered Dumas was stealing the classes. The kicker is that it was a professor of socialist history.
Despite not earning an actual degree, Dumas does not regret his 4-year experiment.
Dumas concedes that college crashing may not work for everyone, “I freely acknowledge that this is not for everyone. For one thing, there are some careers where a professional degree is a prerequisite, such as becoming a physician or a lawyer.” However he also believes that “society has overstated the value of a degree.” He preaches that there numerous industries where what matters is your output such as entrepreneurs, freelancers and tech workers. The ability to produce results is far more valuable than where your degree is from, or whether you have one at all.
“There are so many famous dropouts in the tech world—Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg,” Dumas explains. “It seems crazy that even people who plan to become entrepreneurs or developers still obsess about where they will get their degree.”
Dumas states that U.S. college tuition and fees have gone up 1,120% since 1978, which is four times faster than the inflation rate. The estimated price of tuition of private college in the 2022–2023 will be $76,333, making the cost of a four-year education approximately $305,000.
Just because you have a degree does not give you a gold ticket to a great job. In 2008, over 35 percent of college graduates were underemployed and by mid-2013, the number had risen to 44 percent.
Dumas argues that you do not have to attend an Ivy League institution to build a powerful network of alumni who can advance your career. He built a community of successful friends through the classroom and campus parties that have helped his career. Dumas goes so far as to say you don’t need to be in a campus environment to make lasting and important relationships. He suggests to be social in all aspects of life; conferences, lectures and even bars. “Being exposed to people from different walks of life and new ideas is so valuable,” he insists.
He is ahead of the game and has no massive college loans. Despite a lack of a degree, he launched a successful business in Montreal. It is called Datective, it provides assistance and online dating profiles for wealthy individuals.
So what do you think? Is Dumas a freeloading thief or should a quality education be a civil right that is available for everyone without putting people in debt for the next 10 years of their life?
You can read the entire article at Fast Company.