University of the People: Free Education for the World
Education empowers individuals and gives them a chance to escape poverty. This idea is so accepted and powerful that one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls to “Achieve Universal Primary Education.”
However, what is next for those who have achieved primary education? If a person has a primary or even secondary education, are there resources to allow that individual to obtain a higher education?
Often, a young adult may desire a higher education but find that their financial situation will keep them from achieving a traditional higher education without substantial scholarships. Possibly, they are too geographically far from a traditional university or need to work to contribute to the household income.
Fortunately, a global revolution in higher education is taking shape through the work of the University of the People. They have created a business plan that provides free higher education for the world online. So far, they only have four programs, but they are all accredited: Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. The sequence of courses is comparable to any brick-and-mortar education, and are overseen by an advisory board of professionals from several large universities.
Anyone over the age of 18 with a secondary diploma and proficiency in English can apply to the University of the People. Tuition is completely free and course materials are all accessible on the Internet and available to download. There is a small application fee, and each course does require a $100 end-of-course examination. However, the fees have the possibility of being covered through scholarships.
How is all this achievable? Well, the University has partnered with several large names in this endeavor, such as Yale University for research, New York University for applications and Hewlett-Packard for internships. Furthermore, well-qualified instructors and professionals volunteer as course instructors and course developers. People dedicated to the cause of giving everyone access to higher education make this business plan succeed.
Even with such great strides in access to education, those in poverty are still at a disadvantage. A large group of potential students is left out of this revolution because they lack Internet access, working computers or English proficiency.
However, those areas are being addressed. For example, the University of the People pledged to accept 250 qualified Haitians into the program. The University hopes this group of students will help the rebuilding of Haiti by becoming leaders through this educational opportunity. To aid the students, the University of the People pledged to “locate places for students to go to study, furnish these places with computers, ensure electricity and back-up generators and provide satellite Internet.”
The United States can also help with the technological disadvantages that Africa faces through the Electrify Africa Act. This act would establish partnerships and devote financial help to Sub-Saharan Africa, where electricity is wildly inconsistent. By creating reliable electricity sources in Africa, the economy will likely improve, and people will have the ability to escape poverty. If Sub-Saharan Africa had reliable electricity and, in turn, access to the Internet, a large group of potential students would have the opportunity to achieve higher education through the University of the People.
Students lacking English proficiency are also being addressed. The United Nations is working to bring primary education to every child around the globe with the aforementioned MDGs. Once a child is literate in their own language and has passed primary education, educators can start to focus on teaching a foreign language with proficiency in secondary school, thus opening doors for higher education.
The University of the People has rolled out a solid business plan that is already showing results. So many people around the globe that thought they would never be able to achieve a higher education due to finances or distance now have an opportunity to succeed and move out of poverty.
– Megan Ivy
Sources: Congress.gov, University of the People, UN Millennium Goals
Photo: The Positive Approach