How One University Is Offering Affordable Education

Another higher education program, The University of the People, just set out with the mission of extending affordable education to more people, according to an article in the New York Times. It hopes to spread education to poor students around the world. 

The university was started in Haiti, after the earthquake destroyed most of the country’s higher education infrastructure. The school set up three computer centers in tents and invited English-speaking students from nearby tent cities to come and work for about four hours a day.

“They don’t have electricity, they don’t have computers, there are university students who have to carry water on their head from another mountain,” said Shai Reshef, the Israeli entrepreneur who spent $1 million to create the free university two years ago. “They come in two shifts, for four hours a day, to study. Their need was to the point that we began a feeding program.”

Reshef has recruited hundreds of volunteer professors from around the world to teach a 10-week online course to 1,000 poor students from over 100 countries. Reshef even recruited more professors than he’d ever need. Students will only have to pay $10 to $50 for admission.

The University of the People’s classes are based on peer learning, and students will get out of it what they put into it. Classes have 20-40 students, and each student is assigned weekly reading materials. Students are then required to post reactionary/commentary responses from the readings online, and they must comment on their peers’ responses.

The school only offers two degrees: one in business administration and the other in computer science.

The university is not accredited, meaning students don’t actually earn a degree. However, for many poor students, this is their only option for higher education. Other students have used this as a stepping stone to getting into an accredited university.

Some students enroll in the University of the People to build their academic skills or college application. Other students enroll to show accredited universities that they can overcome poverty and get an education.

Accredited colleges are now taking interest. New York University announced a partnership with the school that will allow some unusually promising and needy students to enroll at N.Y.U.’s Abu Dhabi campus with significant financial aid. Hewlett-Packard also announced that it would offer an internship program to students at the University of the People, stating it strongly believes “in the work UoPeople is doing to democratize higher education.”