A College Education for All, Free and Online

The first shot in the revolutionary future of higher education?

by Kevin Carey in the Chronicle for Higher Education

All around the world, people have been waiting for someone like Shai Reshef to come along.

Reshef is the founder and president of the University of the People, a tuition-free online institution that enrolled its first class of students in 2009.

UoPeople strives to serve the vast numbers of students who have no access to traditional higher education. Some can’t afford it, or they live in countries where there are simply no good colleges to attend. Others live in rural areas, or identify with a culture, an ethnicity, or a gender that is excluded from public services.

UoPeople students pay an application fee of between $10 and $50 and must have a high-school diploma and be proficient in English. There are also small fees for grading final exams. Otherwise, it’s free.

The university takes advantage of the growing body of free, open-access resources available online. Reshef made his fortune building for-profit higher-education businesses during the rise of the Internet, and he noticed a new culture of collaboration developing among young people who grew up in a wired world. So UoPeople relies heavily on peer-to-peer learning that takes place within a highly structured curriculum developed in part by volunteers.

The university plans to award associate and bachelor’s degrees, and it is now seeking American accreditation…

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