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Study at University of the People: Is it worth it? 10 Things You Need to Know

Before you decide to go study at University of the People, the supposed first online university, be sure to read this to the end.

Not everyone has the time and resources to attend a regular university. There are lots of professionals today who would like to further their education but cannot leave their jobs to do that. There are also those who due to family commitments cannot leave their home for school.

Time and resource limitation is not the only incentive behind the popularity of online universities. A lot of advantages come with studying online. For example, you can choose from a wide range of programs that may not be available in universities around you or even within the country. You will be able to learn at your own pace in most cases – that is, freeing yourself of the biggest drawbacks of a traditional university where you are required to progress alongside the class regardless of how slow or fast.

While it will be great to enjoy all the benefits of attaining a degree online, this can also lead to regrets later. There are online degrees that are world-class. Most of such degrees are offered by established traditional universities around the world. Degrees that are not awarded by regular universities will have no recognition in most countries. Companies look upon such programs as diploma or degree mills, and this makes it difficult to find employment. You will be competing against thousands of job seekers who have graduated from regular well known universities against whom your chances will be quite slim.

In this article we will discuss one of the most popular online universities today known as UoPeople aka University of the People. We will look at ten things this university and its critics and students say about UoPeople. The article concludes with our verdict on the worthiness of UoPeople.

ABOUT UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE

It is a virtual university started in 2009 by an Israeli entrepreneur known as Shai Reshef. Its stated mission is to provide tuition-free education for people around the world. Their stated target seems to be the underprivileged or overcommitted. They are accredited by Distance Education Accrediting Commission in the USA. According to them, there are over 20 thousand students enrolled.

TEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE

We will emphasize ten points every applicant needs to know about University of the People in order to make a sound decision. You will find this article helpful as it will possibly prevent you from making costly mistakes you may regret for years to come. These points will be discussed under two subheadings: What the university says about itself, and what critics and students say. Finally, we will offer our concluding thought about the worthiness of UoPeople.

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WHAT DOES UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE SAY ABOUT ITSELF?

Let us outline some things this university says about itself without scrutinizing any of the claims.

  1. From information obtained on their official website, University of the People is the world’s first non-profit, tuition-free, online, American university established in 2009. It refers to itself as the Education Revolution dedicated to making higher education globally accessible. At present there are over 20 thousand students enrolled.

According to them, UoPeople is accredited by some of the most renowned accreditation bodies like the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), and BPPE, and partnered with some top universities of the World. Partner universities include: Berkley University of California, University of Edinburgh, and NYU. They claim to also partner with companies like Microsoft, HP, Saylor.org, and Intel. They offer degrees in Business Administration, Computer Science, Health Science, and Education.

  • According to this official page, University of the people is located in Pasadena city. The page provides different contact information for various kinds of questions, ranging from questions regarding admission, assistance, alumni, inquiries, donations, etc. all these contacts are given as email addresses. There are phone numbers too, but it appears they prefer email contact.
  • University of the people has several scholarship programs for different sets of people comprising Emergency Refugee Funds, Foundation Hoffman Scholarship, UoPeople General Scholarship, and much more. Critics have said these scholarships are largely none-existent. You can visit this link for everything regarding their scholarship. On this other page, UoPeople describes itself as an American university.
  • The university’s definition of tuition-free is that you will not be charged for educational instructions, course material or annual enrolment. They did mention charging modest fees for pre-course assessment fee. Just how much this fee is they have not made public. On this page the university affirms that they provide students with an opportunity to receive an online degree program COMPLETELY tuition-free. They also mention that they provide leading degree programs in an innovative classroom setting.
  • University of the people claims that its Israeli Founder and President, Shai Reshef, in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Israel have announced the launch of a collaborative project to provide access to tuition-free, accredited Higher Education for Refugees and Asylum seekers all over the world. It went on to say that the institution and the UNHCR have established a special policy to admit refugees and asylum seekers in cases where official transcripts and documents could not be obtained. There is much information regarding scholarships and policies on this same page.
  • On this page University of the People claims worldwide recognition. Just what exactly is meant by recognition is not clearly explained. But from the content of this page, it appears that the university is talking about media recognition. There are several press-releases featured on the page. Articles published by some of the most prominent media outlets in the world. This however, says little about the acceptability of its degrees in other countries or even in America itself. They also noted on their FAQs page that their degree is recognized around the world. We advise that you visit this page and read its content carefully. It will give you a deeper understanding of what to expect.

There is the chance of transferring your credit to another university, but this depends on the institution you are going to or coming from. Naturally, every institution will have their own policies regarding transfer of credits. Just as the UoPeople does not guarantee accepting students from a school, so also does it not guarantee students’ ability to transfer credits from UoPeople to other schools, probably online universities.

WHAT DO STUDENTS AND CRITICS SAY ABOUT UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE?

There have been many negative reactions towards most claims made by the UoPeople. Some from critics and others from students of this virtual institution. Some of these criticisms are based on facts. We will examine the most common ones. A link will be provided towards the end that will give you more information about these claims made by UoPeople.

  • First of all, a lot of students after taking a course are of the opinion that the university’s claim of free-tuition is false, unethical and deceptive. They feel tricked into joining the program because the cost was not explicitly stated in the advert they received or read before signing up. Some even claimed they weren’t able to graduate due to financial problems, and would not have signed up had the university been transparent about costs associated with the studies. The university charges a fee for every test a student takes, and there are many tests. The fee is $100 for undergraduates and $200 for graduates.

A student must spend about $4000 for undergraduate degree and $2400 for graduate degree. Take note also that there is a signup fee of $60. It means if you cannot pay $60, you will not be allowed to join, likewise if you are unable to pay a test-fee. If one reads the content on the homepage of this university, you get the impression that it will be $0 to take the course. It would have been more transparent if they declared right away that you should expect to spend up to $4060 before graduating with a B.Sc. if you are a prospective student and cannot afford to spend this amount for a degree, steer clear of UoPeople.

  • Several critics have taken aim at UoPeople for its claim of quality. First they point out that the UoPeople has no physical address in the USA, but describes itself an American accredited university based in the USA. These critics rightly point out that instead of paying for a virtual address in the US the university should have used a physical address in Israel where it is really located. They claim that the university is run by Israelis with a few employees of other nationals.
  • Also, regarding the accreditation claim, critics say that the accrediting body, DEAC has little respect in the USA. Besides, it only accredits distance learning institutions or courses. Critics note that the best accreditation organizations in the USA are mostly regional and none of these have accredited UoPeople. This means that UoPeople remains largely unrecognized in the US. The other serious issue with quality is that some students say that their assignments are not marked by tutors; instead the university relies on what it calls peer-assessment. Students will grade one another’s assignment. Some students say they got a zero because a fellow student forgot to grade their assignment, others complain that they were unfairly marked by students who do not understand English well and could not fully comprehend the assignments. According one student, this occurs almost with every assignment she had submitted.

Another big issue with UoPeople is that the only means of communication between a student and the department is via email and most of the time, staffs do not check their mail early enough to provide any meaningful help to a student.

  • Finally, critics point out that a claim by UoPeople of coordination with the United Nations has been rebuffed by the United Nations itself. They provide this link as proof. According to them, UoPeople is lying deliberately in order to convince prospective applicants that it is a world-class institution equivalent to any other degree. UoPeople also claims worldwide recognition. This is clearly false because they are not recognized even in Africa, let alone other developed countries. Nigeria and South Africa in particular have stated that they will not accept degrees from such institutions. Check this page for what South Africa thinks of UoPeople.

SO IS IT WORTH IT STUDYING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE?

University of the People is far more deceptive than it seems. They create an urgent impression to cost you nothing or very little. They do not disclose just how much a degree will cost you. Their messages show too much desperation for an institution that is driven by solely non-profit motives. For example, you find up to three “APPLY” buttons on their website and every sentence you read tends to urge you to sign up. Their many press releases appear to be aggressively advertising the institution. Costs associated with each program are rather shrouded in secrecy.

If you want a degree certificate that will be useful to you, kindly keep away from this institution. If you are not willing to spend $4000 or $2400 plus $60, never sign up to any of their programs. If you want the knowledge more than the certificate, there are many free alternatives that provide better quality. Many students say UoPeople uses materials from other real universities provided freely to the public.

You can sign up with Khan Academy to get a degree-level knowledge in many courses. All for free, especially science and computer-related courses. I used this website to understand a lot of Mathematical and Computer science concepts I could not understand in School. There are many other free alternatives with certification. Rather than spend $4060 for a highly controversial degree, particularly if you are from Africa, just attend a real college or institution near you. If time does not permit this, you can join the National Open University of your country or sign up for a free program online. While you may be enticed by UoPeople’s offer of a degree, do not forget that institutions like these are considered by most employers as Degree Mills. You will also be competing against students from a real degree-awarding institution, and there are thousands of such students whose qualification will command more respect than anything UoPeople can give you. Click this link to read further about the UoPeople

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