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University of the People – Free Tuition & No Diplomas

UofPOffering an educational experience at no cost is an amazing idea and works great for those that are yearning to stimulate their brain cells. MIT, among other institutions, have been offering open course ware education for years via online technology. It has been a wonderful opportunity and they have helped to educate the masses (one free online course at a time).

Last September The University of the People was established with the same intent; to bring diverse groups of people together with one common goal.. to learn. Their meager beginnings started with a cross-segment of 180 students representing 50 different countries. Fast forward 9 months and they now have close to 500 hundred students from 87 countries. I would not say that their growth is viral but it is certainly noteworthy and extremely respectable considering they are the “new kid on the block”.

The main difference between University of the People and MIT’s open course ware model is purely structural. For example, MIT offers it’s lecture series, class notes, presentations, reading materials, tests, & examinations for free on their site. Students are able to come and go as they like and study the material as much or as little as their interest dictates. Basically, all the learning potential but without peer evaluation or instructor guidance.  U of P provides the exact same product but what they bring to the table is everything that MIT does not. They have actual classes of 15 to 20 students. The courses are led by an instructor and each student is held accountable for the work they complete not only by the instructor but also by their peers.

Another distinct difference between an open course ware model and U of P is the accreditation aspect. Currently U of P is not accredited (as is most open course ware organizations), however they are strongly working to achieve accreditation (which OCW will never attempt). If and when the school receives accreditation, it promises all of it’s current and former students that they will receive proper education credits for the courses they successfully completed and they will be able to transfer those credits seamlessly to other institutions or apply them toward a degree at University of the People.

Certainly sounds like an intriguing opportunity but only if you are willing to take a gamble regarding U of P’s ability to gain accreditation. However, if you are just looking to further your education and don’t have a need for a diploma, I would think U of P’s program would probably fit the bill. And of course.. the price is right! (free)

If you found this information intriguing and would like to learn more about the University of the People, you can visit their website here to see their mission, leadership, partners, and answers to the most frequently asked questions.

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27 Responses to “University of the People – Free Tuition & No Diplomas”

  1. UoPeople says:

    Thanks a lot for the blog.

    University of the People is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing universal access to quality, online post-secondary education to qualified students.

    We invite you to visit our website to read more about University of the People.

  2. Andrew says:

    I am a student of UoPeople.
    I like this University. It is really an opportunity.

  3. S.F. says:

    University of the People is a wonderful concept, but its implementation leaves much to be desired. I know this first-hand–I am currently enrolled at the university. There are many problems with the de facto learning experience at the university:

    1. No enforcement of the Academic Honesty and Integrity policy. Plagiarism is covered in the first two required courses at the university, yet it is the rule rather than the exception in the discussion forums. It is also commonplace in assignments that require explanations (e.g. non-computational questions/problems). In fact, plagiarism is so prevalent that if one brings up the fact that a fellow student’s submission is completely cut-and-pasted from Wikipedia, he is likely to be told that “this is the way we do it in all our classes.”

    2. Flawed assessment model. Courses consist of discussion forums, learning journals, quizzes, assignments, and a final. The final, usually a multiple choice test of 5-10 problems to be completed in one hour (and usually completed in 20 minutes), is worth 40% of the student’s grade. At no other university I have attended did any course place so much weight on an exam that did not challenge the student nor represent the material covered throughout the quarter. The discussion forums are of questionable worth for the reasons stated above. On top of these issues, the lowest one or two scores is dropped from among the graded areas (DFs, assignments, etc.), allowing a student to forgo 1/9 to 2/9 (or more) of a quarter’s worth of work (excluding the final) and suffer no penalty. Such non-participation would likely reduce a student’s grade by one or two letters at a real university. This is related to the courses’ inadequate and un-enforced Participation policy.

    3. Lack of uniformity in grading. Peer assessment is part of the learning model. Unfortunately, you are just as likely to have a student who himself does not understand the material grading your assignment (this makes a huge difference, even though solutions are provided) as you are another student whose assignment received a 20 and is now out for blood. This is also a problem in the discussion forums.

    I want the university to succeed, but more than that I want a degree from this university that actually means something. As I note the lack of quality in my fellow student’s work, the lack of effort put into plagiarized posts and assignments that will, regardless, likely get an A, I find it hard to believe that even 30% of UoP’s students could cut it in a real university. I don’t see how, with things the way they are now, University of the People could possibly become accredited. Sad thing is, there are UoP students that are now more than half-way done with their four-year degree who have no notion of what an actual education is and who would probably flunk out of their first year at any two-year college.

    I can only hope that someone at UoP wakes up and appreciates the sad state of its affairs, the joke that UoP, in practice, has become and decides to do something about it.

    • Dave says:

      Are you still a student at UoP? Curious as to your thoughts a few years later.

  4. G.A. says:

    I believe that S.F. is fixed on the traditional university approach, and sees that because “big brother” is not watching every movement that we make; we will be by large a group of dishonest (cheaters) students.

    Like any other university there is always the good and the bad student mix. The quality of the education is not only the responsibility of the “University”; it is a combination of our individual effort, our study group effort, and our mentor(s) guidance. Together, we can evaluate our weakness, nurture our strengths; and experience what higher education is all about.

    The University of the People is a revolutionary concept emphasizing that higher education is avalable to all. Like anything new, it may create fears and misunderstandings; but again it is up to you to decide what you wnat to achieve. Do you want quality skills that you can apply to any job with ease; or do you just want a degree to show-off and nothing more? The choice is yours, no matter where you pursue your education.

  5. bill gates says:

    The True University of the people are the public colleges.

    university of california

    university of michigan

    university of texas.

    All tax-paid colleges… with student fees and tax-money…

    Public colleges should give All courses away for free free free on web.

    People with tax-money paid for All this… Give it All back to the people…

  6. Ken B. says:

    The irony is the entry requirement of a High School diploma yet you won’t get a diploma from UOP. This should tell you something.

    I do not have a US High School diploma but was able to earn a BA at a top British university because they provided entry-level coursework so that anyone could earn a degree based on merit, not based the crumbling institution that is the American High School.

    UOP is a good idea but poorly implemented. I would be surprised to see them get accredited. Even and if they did, how would they afford to issue degrees and maintain records?

    Most importantly, there does not seem to be much progress in the three years since UOP opened. By today’s business standards that’s already a fail.

    I would love to see a truly free university but I suspect this attempt is doomed.

    • Dave says:

      Actually im not a student at this college nor do i work for them but your comment that they dont give out diplomas is incorrect. They do. Its just a piece of paper. There is no attachment to it.

    • Dave says:

      They have also received a lot of funding and partnerships in 2012 so I don’t see this college model as failed or going away.

  7. Dan says:

    Hi I am really interested in this program, just a couple of questions to anyone who knows,

    Are the classes real time or are you supposed to listen to a prerecorded lecture ,read a book, etc?
    Is assistance to every class mandatory? How can the professors know you are atteding?

    Thank you

  8. Wabbit says:

    Hello friends,

    I’ve just finished my first semester at the UoPeople. It was tough as heck! We did a lot of reading, researching, and writing. There were a lot of reading and analysis on someone else paper. It helps you see a different prospective. We’ve learn to read carefully and grade fairly. It improves my interpersonal skills (specially … communication). People complain a lot on peer-assessment however it was not the major part of your assignment. Some students graded without providing feedback. Feedback is being evaluated by the teacher. Yes, there was a few that committed plagiarism. They thought they could get away with it and they were wrong. The instruction was to give zero point for plagiarized work.

    As of Feb. 2014, the school is accredited. Currently, the typical weekly format for the class is as follows;
    • Write a paragraph of the assigned topic and post on the discussion board.
    • Each student requires posing a minimum of 3 responses to the classmate topic
    • Written Assignment including 2-3 pages on the assigned topic, answer/cover sub-topic, analysis, and/or summary. Each paper must include credit for the source of information
    • Grade three of the Written Assignment (randomly selected, no names, & teacher will grade your work)
    • Reading/Researching material – ton of readings (web link and text book in .pdf is provided)
    • Write weekly learning journal
    • 2-Quiz (20+ questions each) and 1 Final (40+ questions) – some classes require proctor exams

    Usually 75% of students move on to their second year. There were 7 students graduated on the first graduation. If anyone thinks this is a diploma mill, you are so wrong. I google my teachers and they are very prominent teachers in their organizations.
    The president of the school, Shai Reshef, ran the Kidum Group and turned $100K to $25 mil revenue. Kaplan bought Kidum in 2005. Yes, the Kaplan online school…. Please google his name and learn for yourself. The guy was CEO of the Israel test preparation company (Kidum). He knows how to help students learn. His UoPeople and his methods are very good. The weak will get weeded out and the strong will move on. If you have a strong will to learn and little money, I would recommend this school. By the way, they are beginning to offer some internship position… It is new and it sounds really good…. I hope they have more of it.

  9. student says:

    I’d like to know is it real university I mean after 4 years can I go another university for master program ?

    • Jawa207 says:

      I believe they are “accredited” through DETC; not through one of the six regional accrediting agencies in the USA. Therefore it is not likely your degree would be recognized by another university.

  10. Will M. says:

    The DETC is FULLY recognized by the United States Department of Education as a Licensed Accrediting body. The Degrees are FULLY recognized by The US DOE and are 100% legitimate.

    There are a number of myths about national accrediting organizations in general and the DETC in particular. Learning the truth about DETC accreditation and the standards used for schools that fall under the DETC umbrella is important when making a decision about which school to attend. Here are just a few of the popular misconceptions about national accrediting organizations in general and the DETC in particular.

    Regional Accreditation is More Rigorous than DETC Accreditation

    The truth of the matter is that DETC accreditation is no less rigorous than regional accreditation; it is just different. Because regional accreditation is based on locality, it is actually less specific in a number of ways than national accreditation, based on the type of institution. The DETC’s accreditation process is aimed solely at the distance education enterprise, emphasizing not only the curriculum but the quality of the programs and the demonstration of student learning.

    DETC Credits are Not Transferable to Traditional Colleges

    Conventional wisdom often says that nationally accredited schools accept transfer credits from both other nationally accredited schools and regionally accredited schools, while regionally accredited schools do not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited schools. The conventional wisdom, as in many cases, is incorrect and based on assumptions which are often untrue. The standard principles of good practice for transfer credits maintain that the transfer of credit from one institution to another is always left up to the discretion of the receiving institution—transfer of credit is never guaranteed by any reputable institution.

    Transfer should also not solely be denied on the bases of the source of the sending institution’s accreditation. With institutions that follow these best practices, the acceptance of nationally accredited school credits is generally high. DETC graduates who attempted to transfer credits report they were successful 70% of the time.

    DETC Online Programs are of Lesser Quality Than Those of Regionally Accredited Institutions

    The majority of DETC institutions use the same learning management platforms, textbooks, and faculty credentials as regionally accredited institutions. DETC institutions are required to annually report student satisfaction. In 2009, 97% of students “achieved, or will have achieved upon completing [their] studies, the goals [they] had when starting the course or program.”

    Regional Accrediting Groups are More Experienced Evaluating Distance Learning

    DETC is recognized nationally by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) in the same manner as regional accrediting bodies. Because the DETC’s sole function is to evaluate distance education programs, its standards and practices have become the norm for accrediting distance learning programs.

    The myths and conventional wisdom about the DETC are often the result of biases against distance learning in general. The fact of the matter is, though, that the World Wide Web has expanded the possibilities for distance learning greatly, and more and more students are turning to online schools for education and training. There is no reason to discount a school, especially one primarily based in online distance learning, because its major accreditation comes from DETC. Here’s why:

    DETC accredited institutions must deliver on their promises of student satisfaction to maintain accreditation with the Council.
    DETC accreditation means that knowledgeable educators and potential employers have reviewed the institution to ensure programs offer students a quality education that will fulfill their educational goals
    DETC has helped countless hundreds of institutions improve their offerings and touched the lives of millions of students over its 85 years in existence. The DETC will make sure institutions and students alike are treated fairly.

  11. Danielle says:

    they do give out diplomas but they are not accredited….they have no accreditation. which can be an issue if you are trying to land a job with a non accretive diploma. essentially useless.

  12. Adam says:

    UoPeople are certainly accredited by the DEAC! Their Academic board is comprised of highly regarded members from Yale, NYU, Cambridge etc who claim that UoPeople is just as ‘good’ as the previously mentioned universities. Somehow I think this university is here to stay! Revolutionary…

  13. Allison says:

    Can you get admission if you have a GED?

    • Tara says:

      Allison, yes you can! I have a GED and I have applied. I am just waiting for my acceptance since I sent in my GED transcript.

  14. Rahman says:

    I read all these comments.

    I’d like to mention that I’m a student of UoPeople since July,2014. I think UoPeople is doing best. It is DEAC accredited and provides high quality education. Peer based education system is a positive approach as because it helps to develop students assessment capacity. I’ve to study a lot to achieve a good grade.

  15. UoPeople says:

    Hi everyone. This is a very old article, and a lot has changed since it was published. We now have around 2500 students from 170 countries. We have been accredited by the DEAC ( To explain a bit about regional vs national accreditation; whilst some do consider a difference of ‘value’ between regional and national accreditation, you can rest assured that legally, the accreditation of the DEAC is equal to regional accreditation, and both are recognized by the department of education as well as members of CHEA ( Of course, all graduates receive diplomas after completing their studies!

    I can confidently tell you that our graduates are working in some highly renowned companies, and some of them have even started their own businesses. I encourage you to look through our LinkedIn page to get a better understanding:

    You are welcome to visit our website to find out more ( and if you have any questions, please email !

  16. alex says:

    i have associate degree in business, will UOP will give credit for the courses i had completed?

    • Travis says:


      I emailed them and they will not accept transfer credits, but the upside is they assured me that I would be able to apply for an MBA after graduation. No I am not a current student.

  17. Wenibit says:

    UofP is a wonderful idea. In my country, Nigeria, we have something like that and it functions well.
    What is the length of the associate degree and the fully degree?

  18. joseph says:

    Hi there.

    I am really wondering if someone can continue with master studies to other american universities after attending university of people.

    Hope to read from you soon.

  19. kingsley says:

    Pls how do i study from nigeria.

  20. Ahmed says:

    Dear All,

    I’am admitting now in the MBA program , am still not having the English qualification requirement mentioned in your conditions , However my high school was an English language school in my country (Egypt), Is this sufficient to start directly in the MBA , in addition my experience is more than 15 years in the project management field with many international companies



  21. Tiffany says:

    I’m interest in U of P? My question is : Is this school better than Penn Foster ?