Almost Free College – Only pay when you complete a course: University of the People

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You would probably be surprised if I told you that today there is an accredited degree-granting university with over 100,000 students from all over the world that has no campus or tuition fees. Yet at the People’s University, 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 course. . That’s it. There are no other fees, even for books, as all educational material is open source. In addition, scholarships are available for students who are unable to cover these costs. Unlike MOOCs, the average class size varies between 20 and 30 students, and students cannot continue at the University if they do not complete their courses and pay their assessment fees. While the fees support the ongoing operations of the University, donations are used to support scholarships, program development, and other enhancements.

“The People’s University is based on the premise that education is crucial for the advancement of individuals and of society in general. Millions of people around the world, especially in developing countries, are excluded from higher education for various reasons.

Launched in 2009 by Shai Reshef, a visionary passionate about educating the world, who believes 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. world. The non-profit university was accredited in 2014 by the Distance Education Training Council, a national accreditation body, and in 2020 became a candidate for accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission, one of the five regional accreditation agencies in the United States.

How can the University be self-sufficient mainly through application and evaluation fees? It is managed mainly by volunteers. All professors and deans are volunteers as are most of the staff, including the president. Nothing is provided that is not absolutely necessary for student success, but everything that is necessary is provided. There is no campus and all courses are online; technology is used wherever possible to streamline operations. The University takes advantage of labor markets around the world that offer competitive prices. The technology comes mainly from the West Bank of Israel, and many student services come from India. The program is very simplified and few options are offered. Degrees are only offered in four areas: business administration, computer science, health sciences, and education, all areas that lead to good jobs.

How does the University ensure quality? There is a department advisory committee for each department that decides what to offer and reviews courses to update them periodically. All courses are designed by expert curriculum designers and faculty receive the syllabus and lesson plan. So, although there are many sections of each course offered and there are thousands of teachers, there is quality control over the course content and the teachers are primarily course facilitators. The University has been able to attract a large number of faculty and volunteer staff who are drawn by the desire to give back as well as the attractiveness of teaching to various international classes of students. The faculty is mainly made up of retired professors, full professors who want to give back, and young doctoral students for whom it is a resume builder. Faculty and academic administrators come from leading universities around the world. Like William Speier, a leading university research professor with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate. from UCLA in Biomedical Engineering which teaches computer science at U. of the People for several years, said he keeps coming back because he can make a difference and learns from students in each of his classes.

The courses consist of four components:

1) Discussion board where the faculty member posts a question from the syllabus, and students respond to the initial post, then they must respond to responses from three other students. Teachers can participate in the discussion as much as they want.

2) A written assignment which is usually a problem or a case study; each student’s work is graded by three other students. The student’s grade is based on an average of the grades assigned to him by his peers.

3) Weekly quizzes which are generally optional and unrated. There are usually two graded quizzes and a test or final project that is graded by the faculty.

4) A learning journal where students are given a series of questions to be answered each week and the faculty grades them and responds directly to the student.

Much of the grading is facilitated by good software that tracks all interactions, so professors are relieved of all the accounting chores. Peer review is an important component of the learning experience at the University. The University plans to add a Teaching and Learning Center “To energize UoPeople’s assessment transformation and improved student learning.”

How does the University ensure student success? Each student is assigned an advisor who stays with them throughout their stay at the University. The counselor helps students choose their courses and periodically checks in with each of their counselors to see how they are doing and to remind them to attend classes as well as to answer any questions the student may have. A student I spoke with said her advisor had seen her so often that she told him it wasn’t necessary. Students can also contact their faculty for additional help whenever needed in a course. The University has a Career Service Center which provides comprehensive tools for students to obtain employment. It is online 24/7 and is accessible to all current students as well as alumni. The University also supports internships, mentorship and a global career network. The University is striving to increase its graduation rate which is currently only 23% and it favors 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 who have used the University to identify talented students for them. “After graduation, 92% of those who receive degrees of any kind at UoPeople are employed, including companies such as Amazon, Apple, Dell, Deloitte, IBM, Microsoft and JP Morgan, and organizations such as the UN and the World Bank. . “

The students and professors I spoke with all found that they learned a lot from other students who come from all walks of life and around the world. They better understood the challenges faced by classmates from other countries who did not have access to good internet connections and many of whom had to rely on their phones to do their work in class. They learned about different cultures as Midwestern MBA graduate Sarah Merlino discussing the different perspectives offered in one of her business ethics courses from students around the world. Sarah, who now works for Amazon, said she was amazed when she Google searched for her first teacher and saw he was very famous. She was also happy that she didn’t need to borrow money to pay for her MBA. Jessica Gonzalez, a student from Maryland who will graduate in March and had attended local community colleges before enrolling in college, explained that beyond the benefits of learning as a member of a global community, she appreciated the flexibility offered by the online environment, the nine-week courses and the accessibility of her faculty.

What future for the People’s University? The University’s strategic plan foresees a growth of 50% per year for an enrollment of 337,000 students during the academic year 2024-25. The plan contains detailed budget projections that primarily include support for student assessment fees, although the plan projects increased contributions and healthy and continued operating surpluses. The plan calls for increased fees paid to faculty as the University matures, increased investment in the academic program to improve student quality and outcomes, and increased investment in technology. The University launched the People’s University in Arabic in 2020 to serve the hundreds of thousands of Arabic-speaking students who need intensive English to attend the People’s University. Reshef believes the University model is scalable with continuous automation and the desire for skilled volunteers to give back. He also believes the model can be replicated by others who want to offer 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 each year and continue to increase tuition fees.


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