University of the People, World's First Tuition-Free Online University, Enters 4th Year

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University of the People (UoPeople) is now entering its fourth year as the first tuition-free online university dedicated to opening access to higher education worldwide. Over the past 3 years, UoPeople has accepted 1500 students around the globe, while further developing its financial model to make the university available to students for generations to come. With this model, the university is positioning itself to be a fully sustainable tuition-free university serving 5000 students a year by 2015.

University of the People (UoPeople) is now entering its fourth year as the first tuition-free online university dedicated to opening access to higher education worldwide. Over the past 3 years, UoPeople has accepted 1500 students around the globe, while further developing its financial model to make the university available to students for generations to come. With this model, the university is positioning itself to be a fully sustainable tuition-free university serving 5000 students a year by 2015.

Among the initiatives taken by UoPeople to ensure financial sustainability is introducing a fee structure so that students are responsible for the costs of processing exams. While the tuition remains free and no student is turned away for lack of funds, these new nominal fees will help sustain the school’s long-term economic health.

Should any student be unable to pay all or some of these fees, the university has developed a number of innovative scholarship models. UoPeople has arranged scholarships with corporate partners and also created a micro-scholarship portal, the first of its kind at any university, to connect individual donors directly to students in need.

UoPeople’s corporate scholarships include partnerships with companies like Intel and Hewlett-Packard. Hewlett-Packard established a dedicated fund to support female students seeking associate degrees, complete with a mentoring process by HP employees for students. The university also created a general scholarship fund, with funding from private donors and family foundations.

UoPeople is positioning itself to raise $5 million dollars by 2015 in order to have the $9 million total it needs to be fully sustainable. The university has already raised $4 million with financial support coming from its founder and President Shai Reshef, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and others.

Because of its innovative use of peer-to-peer learning, open source technology and volunteer academics, the university is able to offer associate and bachelor degrees tuition-free while still offering a quality education.

Over the past 3 years the UoPeople has also developed a President’s Council, comprised of leadership from top-tier universities around the world whose expertise contribute greatly to the school’s growth and sustainability. Among its members are New York University President John Sexton; Sir Colin Lucas, who served as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1997 to 2004; and Michèle Gendreau-Massaloux, Rector emeritus of the Academy of Paris, Chancellor of the Universities, and Rector of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) which associates more than 700 Universities around the world. The President’s Council advises UoPeople on matters like academic quality, scholarship funds and more.

With a background as an educational entrepreneur and 20 years of experience in the international education market, UoPeople founder and President Shai Reshef is well suited to position the university for long-term financial sustainability. From 1989 to 2005, he served as chairman of the Kidum Group, a for-profit educational services company. Between 2001 and 2004, Reshef also chaired KIT eLearning, the online learning partner of the University of Liverpool and the first online university outside of the United States.

“From my own experience as a business entrepreneur, I saw the difference that access to education can make in a person’s life and I vowed to commit myself to creating a sustainable model for providing education to students anywhere in the world,” said Reshef.

As a result of his work with UoPeople, this year, Reshef was named one of Wired Magazine’s “50 People Changing the World.” The Huffington Post elected him as the “Ultimate Game Changer in Education” in 2010. In 2009, he was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, selected by OneWorld as one of its ‘People of 2009’ and awarded an Ashoka fellowship.

For more information about University of the People, visit: http://www.uopeople.org

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