Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tuition-Free "University of the People" Now Open

Brainchild of Israeli entrepreneur Shai Reshef -- who has donated $1 million of his own money to the effort -- the UN Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology and Development (GAID) sponsored University of the People opened for business the first of May, 2009 with programs of instruction in business and computers. The institution is "online only" and opened with 200 students from some 52 countries -- but it needs 15,000 students and $6 million to continue operating.
Admission opened just over two weeks ago and without any promotion some 200 students from 52 countries have already registered, with a high school diploma and a sufficient level of English as entry requirements.

Students will be placed in classes of 20, after which they can log on to a weekly lecture, discuss its themes with their peers and take a test all online. There are voluntary professors, post-graduate students and students in other classes who can also offer advice and consultation.

The only charge to students is a $15 to $50 admission fee, depending on their country of origin, and a processing fee for every test ranging from $10 to $100. For the University to sustain its operation, it needs 15,000 students and $6 million, of which Mr. Reshef has donated $1 million of his own money. _UN
It sounds as if the infrastructure is still being assembled, and the May 2009 opening is actually something of a trial period shakeout cruise. More about Shai Reshef:
Mr. Reshef hopes to build enrollment to 10,000 over five years, the level at which he said the enterprise should be self-sustaining. Startup costs would be about $5 million, Mr. Reshef said, of which he plans to provide $1 million.

For all the uncertainties, Mr. Reshef is probably as well positioned as anyone for such an enterprise.

Starting in 1989, he served as chairman of the Kidum Group, an Israeli test preparation company, which he sold in 2005 to Kaplan, one of the world’s largest education companies. While chairman of Kidum, he built an online university affiliated with the University of Liverpool, enrolling students from more than 100 countries; that business was sold to Laureate, another large for-profit education company, in 2004.

Mr. Reshef is now chairman of Cramster.com, an online study community offering homework help to college students.

“Cramster has thousands of students helping other students,” said Mr. Reshef, who lives in Pasadena, Calif., where both Cramster and the new university are based. “These become strong social communities. With these new social networks, where young people now like to spend their lives, we can bring college degrees to students all over the world, third-world students who would be unable to study otherwise. I haven’t found even one person who says it’s a bad idea.” _NYT
As long as the university is run far, far away from the UN and its kleptocratic bureaucracy, it may well succeed. No doubt some palms are being greased at GAID to allow the use of the UN's name in marketing the concept. But if the behind-the-scenes hands-on managers of the UOP can run things without interference from the Palace of Thieves on Turtle Bay, they may actually create something good that benefits a lot of people.

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