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I'm the president of a tuition-free, accredited, online American university. I want to show you that a high-quality degree does not have to be just a dream. AMA!

I'm Shai Reshef, president of University of the People aka UoPeople, a tuition-free accredited online American university. Our mission is to open the gates of higher education to every qualified student, regardless of any financial, geographical, political, cultural or personal contraints that would otherwise prevent them from doing so.

Many of our students are in the US, where the prospect of crippling student loans can be an insurmountable barrier to entry, or in the case of undocumented immigrants not even an option. Other members of our student body hail from about 200 countries around the world, from Africa, the Middle East, East Asia and Europe. We are open to all, but we are especially a lifeline for those who have no other opportunities to learn.

The university offers two-year associate and four-year bachelor’s degree programs in Business Administration, Computer Science, and Health Science, as well as an MBA program. Our President's Council includes chancellors, vice chancellors and presidents of leading universities such as NYU, UC Berkeley, Columbia, Duke University, George Washington, Edinburgh and Oxford.

University of the People has been featured in The New York Times, BBC, NPR, Times Higher Education, US News and World Report, Huffington Post, Voice of America, the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes and many more. In 2014, I gave a TED talk about the university and its revolutionary model, which has so far had over 4 million views.

We want people to know that higher education can be accessible, affordable and high quality. It is possible to get a real, career-boosting accredited degree online, and in way that won't leave you paying off enormous loans for decades.

My Proof: https://twitter.com/UoPeople/status/844181462626832384

EDIT: I will be answering more of your questions tomorrow. Please keep them coming! Shai

EDIT2: I am back again now answering more of your questions - Shai

Thank you to everyone who contributed. I really enjoyed sharing this time with you - Shai

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There have been rumors that UoPeople is running out of funds and may shut down at some point. Can you speak to how strong the university is financially and reassure us that this is not a problem?

 12   0  

The university is tuition-free and as such relies on open source technology, open educational resources and our 6,000 amazing volunteers. We operate on a very lean budget - all we charge our students is $100 per end-of-course exam ($200 for our MBA).

This amount will make the university sustainable in the near future. Until that point, we do rely on grants that we receive from our generous donors. And we also rely on donors to give us enough scholarships for those of our students who cannot afford even our modest exmas fees, since it is our mission to ensure that no qualified student is left behind due to financial reasons.

We have been operating for eight years; our business model is very solid and we don't see any financial risk for the university in the foreseeable future.

 8   0  

What other majors will be available in the future?

 5   0  

We aren't sure which major will be next. But we always think of majors that are in high demand, will help students find a job and have a better future, as well as help their communities and countries.

 7   0  

Good day Mr. Reshef. My name is Binh and I have three questions for now:

  1. I received an email about credit transfer project about a month ago. Is credit transfer available now?

  2. I am applying for the MBA program, but I actually would like the focus on healthcare improvement, Lean Six Sigma ...would it be possible to create concentration, or even an MHA program?

  3. I am also a military member in the State of California and I would like to explore an opportunity to work with the University to create a degree in Home Land Security. Many of our soldiers, airmen and sailors will be able to transfer many of their credits, training to the degree. Who can I contact?

Thank you.

 5   0  

Hi Binh. Regretfully University of the People does not have the transfer credit option at the moment...

Right now our MBA does not have any concentration, maybe in the future.

The Homeland Security idea is interesting. But it is not where we currently are.

 1   0  

Thank you Sir. Is there any plan for internship or practical training for the Health Science degrees? That will help with finding jobs and also help the communities.

 5   0  

We are looking into the possibility, but bear in mind that our resources are limited and we have students from 200 countries!

 5   0  

Hello Mr. Reshef, Thank you for doing this AMA and THANK YOU for founding UoPeople. I am a student in the Business program, working towards a Bachelor’s Degree (then hopefully an MBA).

UoPeople has improved my life so much! I feel confident, my knowledge is growing, and I am more connected with the world. One of the reasons I chose UoPeople is its philosophy: access to higher education IS key to world peace.

My instructors so far have been wonderful. They are knowledgeable, engaged, and helpful. My question for you is, how are professors and instructors chosen? I understand they are volunteers – is this true? What is their incentive to becoming involved with UoPeople? Thank you!

 5   0  

We have a group of six thousand professional volunteers who came to us because they believe higher education should be affordable, accessible and with high quality. We choose our instructors from that group. In order to become instructors, they need to have the relevant credentials and experience. We are extremely proud of the quality of our instructors!

 1   0  

Thank you very much! They are doing great things for this world :)

 3   0  

We think so too!

 9   0  

Greetings President Reshef. As a current UoPeople student, I have noticed that most classes (even upper tier classes) have a serious problem with plagiarism. It often appears as though even students who commit blatant plagiarism (for instance by copy-pasting four or five of their DF answers from somewhere else) face no punitive actions. I've experienced cases where I have reported the same person term after term and continued to see them in classes with me.

What is being done to combat current problems with plagiarism, and why is it still such a problem?

 4   0  

I can only stress again that plagiarism is an extremely serious issue and we are in the process of taking strong steps to ensure it stops.

 4   0  

First I want to thank you for the everything. This past year has been a good learning experience. My question is more based on a few experiences I have had in past and current terms. What are the schools plans on dealing with plagerism?

 4   0  

I am glad to hear that you are thriving at UoPeople! Plagiarism is an extremely serious issue - and I can only assure you that we are in the process of taking serious measures to make sure that it stops.

 3   0  

Because the university is fully online and doesn't fulfill a feeling that emanates from existence of football ground, music, social and related clubs or motivational and advisory centers; how should students cope with the gap or the desire to do something else besides learning?

 4   0  

Our students indeed lack the face to face social interaction that they may have in traditional universities.

On the other hand, they do have the opportunity to have very intimate online interactions with students from every corner of the world. Every time a student takes a class, they spend an average of 15 hours a week studying side by side with 20-30 students from 20-30 different countries - and friendships and connections most certainly do spring up.

 2   0  

What is the main priority of the university at the moment (aside from growth)? What are short-term milestones?

 6   0  

Our biggest priority is making sure that we maintain the high quality of our courses as we grow.

 2   0  

Hi Mr. Reshef!

I am a new MBA student with UoPeople. I am writing on behave of some of them. Two questions:

  1. Is UoPeople workkng towards the registration of its MBA with the international business associations like AACSB?

  2. It seems the internal communication at UoPeople has some issues. Students keep receiving emails about registration paperwork missing, when in fact they've submitted all documentation on time. Do you have any comments on this matter?

 6   0  

Welcome to the university! We are glad to have you :)

Regarding you first question, UoPeople is fully accredited by the DEAC, which itself is fully recognized by the US Department of Education, and we are very satisfied with our accreditation status.

For your second question, we are aware that we had some minor glitches, which we have taken great care to deal with asap. We are very sorry for the inconvenience.

 2   0  

Hello President Reshef, I am one of your students at the University of the People and I am really grateful for the opportunity to be part of this vision. I believe in the vision and mission of the University of the People, but I know that many more prospective students haven't heard of the University yet. How do you think we can reach them? Thank you. Zeina

 6   0  

Hi Zeina, this is indeed our current major challenge. There are millions of people around the world who are deprived of higher education and who do not know about the opportunity we offer. We do our best to spread the word through the media and social media, as well as encouraging our students and supporters to help us there. But since our marketing budget is limited, there are constraints to how much we can actually do. Saying that, we are growing exponentially, so the word is starting to spread :)

 2   0  

Dear Mr. Reshef,

You were in Vietnam a few months ago promoting UofP and cooperation with local institutions.

How is it coming along? Can we apply that model somewhere else?

 6   0  

It is going very well. We have quite a few new students and applicants from Vietnam as a result. We are more than open to replicate this in other places!

 2   0  

Hello President Reshef,

It's been an amazing journey studying at UoPeople since these past three years. There have been some really cool stuff going on lately, like starting the MBA and health science major, having that video conference current student meet at the end of last year in December. We're very thankful for all the efforts you're taking to make the world a better place.

Even when I'm nearing towards the completion of my degree, I fear if all this time and effort that's being put into acquiring it, would get me employed. Certainly DEAC accreditation means a lot, however, since the university is new, many people in my country still do not know about UoPeople, which makes me wonder if my employers will question the value of it. Please advice what could be done to spread awareness?

 5   0  

We are indeed a young university, and most people and companies don't know about us.

Having said that, we have graduate students working in great companies and more and more of them are opening their doors to our students.

We, for our part, are working very hard to spread the word about the university and the great quality of our students.

 1   0  

So I studied at UOPeople and I did not do well because of difficult times in my life. I am undocumented and I am always afraid of even going out. I go and academic dismisal I applied to get back at the university. In the last class I took I did better however not good enough. What are my chances of me getting back to study at UOPeople? I realize excuses won't work and I want to study. I have beend doing independent study so far while I wait for UOPeople's response?

 7   0  

I am sorry to hear that you have been experiencing problems in your life and I am glad to hear that you are getting back on track. Having said that, please be aware that I bow to the judgement of the experts when it comes to academic decisions, but I highly encourage you to approach them with any questions that you might have. I am sure that they will be glad to help you if they can.

 1   0  

Aside from accreditation/degree, what differentiates UoPeople from taking up similar courses via MOOCs?

 7   0  

UoPeople is not MOOCs. We are a fully accredited university. Students need to be accepted, take the required courses, maintain a minimum grade point average and eventually get a fully accredited degree. Unlike in MOOCs, where students are put in a class of a thousand, ten thousand or a hundred thousand students, when our students take a class they are put together with 20-30 students (from 20-30 different countries) with an instructor in every class, with a program advisor and personal attention. Our pedagogy is peer-to-peer learning and involves very intensive comunication between the students under the supervision of the instructor. As a result, while MOOCs typically have a 5% completion rate, in our courses, we typically have a 95% completion rate.

 1   0  

I don't think anyone would disagree that expanding access to higher education is a good thing...but can you tell us what is truly world-changing about giving more people around the world a chance to earn a degree? What is UoPeople's vision for the future?

 6   0  

I believe that higher education should be a basic right, and not a privilege. Educated people are more likely to have a better future for themselves, for their families, for their communities, for their countries and eventually the entire world. The more educated people we have, the more entrepreneurship we will see, the more advanced the different economies will become. There is a direct corrolation between the economies of different countries and the level of education in those countries. The more educated people a country has, the more advanced it is. Moreover, I believe that educated people have a bright future in front of them, and as such they are more likely to be productive members of society and strive for peace. I believe that education is the best ingredient for world peace.