University of the People touts that it is the first degree-granting online free university. Based in Pasadena, California, the 3-year-old university has admitted 1,500 students from 132 countries. It’s not exactly free: students must pay an application fee – which is prorated based on their country’s GDP – and starting in September they will pay a fee to take exams. Yet students from poorer countries can apply for micro-scholarships to cover the exam cost.
University of the People provides degrees only in computer science and business administration, and the founder Shai Reshef said, “These are the two programs that are most likely to help people find a better job, and that’s what our students want. They want a better chance for the future.”
In the article, Mr. Rashef goes on to say:
…most of our students, be they American or from developing countries, appreciate the American higher education system. They want to study in an American university. And our students want us to be accredited. Accreditation means, for a student, both that it’s a legitimate institution and that they will find a job.
With approximately 500 new students accepted every year, is University of the People a model for global development? Will an American-accredited degree really open doors for its international graduates? One thing is for sure. It certainly is getting attention. The University’s Facebook page has – at the time I publish this post – has 1,031,419 “likes,” including mine.