My colleague and friend Scott Wells has taken up the conversation begun in my previous post about alternatives to college education. Scott has a much clearer mind than I and has some fairly concrete suggestions and categories to play with. It is worth checking out here...but do come back...
I posted a comment on Scott's blog about something that has come up in the discussion here, namely the importance of the social element. The word "social" doesn't begin to cover the depth of many of those relationships. Every scholar needs a community of scholars they can share with. They need people they can teach and also learn from. This doesn't just happen in class, either. In the theological hot house of Chicago's Hyde Park, many a doctoral paper (including mine) is (or was) developed, reviewed, and refined at Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap.
Scholars also need friends. This is something that I sometimes forget. During my own undergraduate years I attended four different schools (yes, for financial reasons). I met my wife, Allison, during my second stint at Bates College. That said, I have very few other continuing relationships with people I met during that time. There are a few Facebook friends and one college friend I have reconnected with through Facebook. That's it. I have (thankfully) been able to keep in touch with a few folks from both my seminary stints. Some of them have become friends and remain important to me. They still form an important part of my life as a learner as well. The networks we form are important.
Any sort of "un-college" would have to find ways to address this need. Homeschoolers have "co-ops" where families band together to teach and learn. Not going to college doesn't necessarily mean not having access to communities of learning. It may, however, mean working to build that community.