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About University of the People

Open to classes in 2009, this is the world's first tuition free online academic institution dedicated to the global advancement and democratization of higher education. Shai Reshef, UoPeople's Founder and President, has 20 years of experience in the international education market.

University of the People Headquarter Location

225 S. Lake Ave Suite 300

Pasadena, California, 91101,

United States

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Latest University of the People News

Almost Free College – Only Pay When You Finish A Course: University Of The People

Oct 18, 2021

University of the People You’d probably be surprised if I told you that there’s an accredited, degree-granting college today with more than 100,000 students from around the world that has no campus and no tuition. Yet at the University of the People , students pay an application fee of $60 and an assessment fee at the end of each course of $120 for an undergraduate course and $240 for a graduate level course. That’s it. There are no other charges, even for books, because all instructional materials are open source. In addition, there are scholarships available for students who are unable to cover these fees. Unlike MOOCs, the average class size ranges between 20 and 30 students and students can’t continue at the University if they do not finish their courses and pay their evaluation fees. While the fees support the University’s on-going operations, donations are used to support scholarships, curricular development, and other enhancements. “University of the People is based on the premise that education is crucial to the advancement of individuals and society at large. Millions of people around the world, especially in developing countries, are excluded from higher education for various reasons.” Begun in 2009 by Shai Reshef, a visionary with a passion to educate the world, who believes that higher education is a  human right and who has the business acumen to develop a new model to make higher education accessible to all qualified students from all over the world. The non-profit University was accredited in 2014 by the Distance Education Training Council, a national accreditor and in 2020 became a candidate for accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission, one of the five regional accrediting agencies in the United States. How is the University able to be self-sustaining primarily from the application and assessment fees? It is operated primarily by volunteers. All of the faculty and deans are volunteers as well as most of the staff including the president. Nothing is provided that is not absolutely necessary to student success but all that is necessary is provided. There is no campus, and all courses are on-line; technology is used wherever possible to streamline operations. The University takes advantage of labor markets around the world which offer competitive prices. Technology comes primarily from the West Bank of Israel and many student services come from India. The curriculum is very streamlined, and few electives are offered. Degrees are offered in only four areas: Business Administration, Computer Science, Health Science and Education, all fields that lead to good jobs. How does the University ensure quality? There is a department advisory board for each department which decides what to offer and reviews courses to periodically update them. All courses are designed by expert curriculum designers and the faculty are given the syllabus and the course plan. Thus, although many sections of each course are offered and there are thousands of faculty, there is quality control over the course content and faculty are primarily course facilitators. The University has been able to attract large numbers of volunteer faculty and staff who are attracted by the desire to give back along with the appeal of teaching to diverse international classrooms of students. The faculty are primarily composed of retired professors, tenured faculty who want to give back and young Ph.D.’s for whom this is a resume’ builder. The faculty and academic administrators come from the leading universities of the world. As William Speier, a research professor at a leading university with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. from UCLA in biomedical engineering who has been teaching computer science at U. of the People for the last several years, reflected that he keeps coming back because he can make a difference and he learns from the students in each of his classes. MORE FOR YOU Courses consist of four components: 1) Discussion forum where the faculty member posts a question from the syllabus, and the students reply to the initial post and then they must reply to the responses of three other students. Faculty can enter the discussion as much as they want. 2) A written assignment which is usually a problem or case study; each student’s assignment is graded by three other students. The student’s grade is based on an average of the grades that their peers gave them. 3)Weekly quizzes which are usually optional and non-graded. There are usually two graded quizzes and a final test or project which is graded by the faculty. 4) A learning journal where students get a set of questions that they must answer each week and the faculty grades it and responds directly to the student. Much of the grading is facilitated by good software that tracks all interactions, so faculty are relieved of all bookkeeping chores. Peer assessment is an important component of the learning experience at the University. The University is planning on adding a Center for Teaching and Learning “to energize the transformation of UoPeople’s assessment and improvement of student learning.” How does the University ensure student success? Each student is given an advisor who stays with them throughout their time at the University. The advisor helps students choose their courses and periodically checks in with each of their advisees to see how they are doing and to remind them to attend class as well as answer any questions the student may have. One student with whom I spoke said her advisor checked in with her so often that she told her it wasn’t necessary. Students also may contact their faculty for extra help whenever necessary in a course. The University has a Career Service Center which provides comprehensive tools for students to get jobs. It is online 24/7 and is available to all current students as well as alums. The University also supports internships, mentorships, and a global career network. The University is working to increase its graduation rate which currently is only 23% and it does foster the transfer of its students to other universities if they want to pursue a different degree or want a different educational experience. The University has collaborations with many universities that have used the University to identify talented students for them . “Upon graduation, 92% of those who receive degrees of any kind at UoPeople are employed, including at companies such as Amazon, Apple, Dell, Deloitte, IBM, Microsoft, and JP Morgan, and organizations such as the UN and the World Bank.” Graduation U.of the People The students and faculty with whom I spoke all found that they learned a lot from the other students who come from all walks of life and from all over the world. They understood more about the challenges that classmates in other countries faced who didn’t have access to good internet connections and many who had to rely on their phones to do their classwork. They learned about different cultures as Sarah Merlino, an MBA graduate from the Midwest, who discussed the various perspectives offered in one of her classes on business ethics from students from across the globe. Sarah, who now works for Amazon, commented that she was amazed when she googled her first professor and saw that he was very famous. She also was thrilled that she didn’t need to borrow any money to pay for her MBA. Jessica Gonzalez, a student from Maryland who will get her bachelor’s degree in March and had attended local community colleges before enrolling at the University, reflected that beyond the advantages of learning as a part of a global community she appreciated the flexibility offered by the on-line environment, the nine-week courses and the accessibility of her faculty. What does the future hold for University of the People? The University’s strategic plan projects 50% growth a year to an enrollment of 337,000 students in the 2024-25 academic year. The plan has detailed budget projections which include being primarily supported by student evaluation fees although the plan does project increased contributions and continuing healthy operating surpluses. The plan provides for increases in the honoraria which are given to faculty as the University scales, increased investment in the academic program to enhance quality and student outcomes, and increased investments in technology. The University launched University of the People in Arabic in 2020 to serve the hundreds of thousands of Arabic speaking students who need intensive English to participate in the University of the People. Reshef believes that the University’s model is scalable with continued automation and the desire of qualified volunteers to give back. He also believes that the model can be replicated by others who want to provide a very low-cost college education to students around the world. This certainly offers an alternative to the model of most of our colleges which face increasing costs every year and continue to increase tuition. Follow me on  Twitter . Check out my  website .

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