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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Free tuition draws Minnesota students to University of the People | Minneapolis Star Tribune

Photo: Maura Lerner
Maura Lerner, higher-education reporter says, "At a time of mounting anxiety over college costs and student debt, the online school is doing its best to smash the mold." 

Jeanette Oehlers of Willmar despaired of ever finishing college. By her account, she was already deeply in debt and at least two years away from earning her degree.

That’s when her father-in-law decided to search the internet. “Hey, I found a university for you,” he told her.

“How much money?” she asked.

The answer, she admits, was hard to believe.

Now, she’s one of some 10,000 students from over 190 countries enrolled in the University of the People, an online school where tuition is zero.

At a time of mounting anxiety over college costs and student debt, UoPeople, as its known, is doing its best to smash the mold. Billed as the world’s first nonprofit, tuition-free accredited university, it relies mainly on volunteer instructors and course material that is freely available online.

The University of the People isn’t completely free. Students pay an assessment fee at the end of each course ($100 for undergrads, $200 for grad students), plus a one-time $60 application fee.

In all, a four-year bachelor’s degree would cost $4,060 — compared to, say, $50,000 at the University of Minnesota, or $210,000 at Carleton College, based on current sticker prices. And for now, the California-based initiative offers degrees in just three fields: business administration, computer science and health science.

While some wonder how much clout a University of the People degree will carry, the school is slowly gaining a foothold around the world, including on the Minnesota prairie. As of August, the school reported 111 students in Minnesota...

Influential TED Talk
The school was the brainchild of its president, Shai Reshef, an Israeli businessman who once ran a for-profit education company and gained a measure of fame from a 2014 TED talk outlining his vision for a tuition-free university.

“We set out to build a model that will cut down almost entirely the cost of higher education,” he said then. His prescription: no bricks and mortar; no textbook fees, and little payroll: “Even the professors, the most expensive line in any university balance sheet, come free to our students,” he said. Thousands of professors, graduate students and others have volunteered their time, according to Reshef, to design the curriculum and teach classes.

After selling his education company, Reshef plowed $3 million of his own funds to start University of the People in 2009, with dreams of serving massive numbers of students. It would, he predicted, “open the gates to higher education for every qualified student.”
Read more... 

Recommended Reading
Shai Reshef - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
University of the People

Shai Reshef is the President of University of the People (UoPeople)—the world’s first tuition-free, non-profit, accredited online academic institution dedicated to opening access to higher education. 

The World's First Tuition-Free Online University - How does it work?