Online universities are charging little or no tuition for access to a wealth of college curriculum, and advocates say the free web-based classrooms may expand higher education to the developing world.

Classes at free online universities -- known as open universities -- include American students who could have difficulty convincing employers that their education is valid and equal to their peers who paid tens of thousands to attend public or private brick-and-mortar schools. Open universities aren't accredited yet, although officials at these institutions said the colleges might pursue accreditation after a few years of proving their credibility.

"[Open universities] are part of exactly...

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