I have 2 over-reaching principles that guide what type of college content I share with you, and University of the People breaks both my rules.
(1) Colleges I share must be Regionally Accredited – this one isn’t.
(2) Colleges I share must be open to high school homeschooled students – this one isn’t.
So, why keep reading? Because this college is worth knowing about, even if it isn’t the right fit for your teen. In this post, I want to make a case for the University of the People. You probably know someone who would love to attend college if cost weren’t a barrier. Perhaps this IS a degree your teen would consider? University of the People is a university doing amazing things, and they’re worth considering.
I have to go there, just for a minute. My first rule, that colleges mentioned must be Regionally Accredited (RA), is important within the context of what we do here because many careers and professions won’t acknowledge a degree that isn’t RA. Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, Accounting, public school K-12 teaching, Engineering, college teaching, Dietetics, Social Work, Architecture, and many others – including those that require a state license, almost always specify a “Regionally Accredited” degree. Being “accredited” without the word “Regional” is not the same thing. If your teen earns non-RA college credit, it will almost never transfer into an RA college (all community colleges and public universities are RA), while RA college credit readily transfers into other RA colleges. So, as you can see, you can’t go wrong choosing RA.
Let me also add that when I tell you a handful of careers specify an RA degree, there are twice as many careers that don’t/won’t. For instance, careers in business, computers, fire science, technology, military, ministry, drama, music, management, law enforcement, and numerous vocational programs (culinary arts, cosmetology, automotive, plus others) don’t care. In fact, within certain fields, accredited is accredited; there is no distinction. I am quite comfortable suggesting non-RA colleges to mid-career adults who are already in their career and simply need to check the box with an accredited degree in something. I’m usually quiet when it comes to non-RA degrees for teens since there is usually so much uncertainty, but in this post, I’ll let you decide.
University of the People is accredited, but they are not Regionally Accredited.
Quick Back Story
In 2009, UoP was a tuition-free startup in California that nobody heard of and a guy surrounded by a few volunteers. They offered one or two degrees initially, and since the college wasn’t accredited, they launched without much love from the higher education community. In addition, they only accepted a handful of students (mostly non-American), so even if you didn’t mind their lack of accreditation, you still might not get in. If you got in, you couldn’t transfer in ANY of your previous credit, they didn’t accept CLEP, and it was a little disorganized. An early argument against their initiative is that it’s just as much work to earn an unaccredited degree as an accredited one. I got the impression that they were a MOOC that wanted to be a college, and that they would fizzle out shortly (or start charging tuition). If you’d like to see what the NY Times had to say about UoP in 2009, you’ll enjoy this story from their archives.
February 2014 UoPeople received accreditation from the Accreditation Commission of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), a U.S. Department of Education authorized accrediting agency. This can be verified at http://www.deac.org/
So, this got people’s attention. In addition, they started getting a lot of support in the university community. Their list of volunteer university leadership includes:
- President of Duke University Richard H. Broadhead
- President of Boston University Robert Brown
- UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks
- Oxford Vice-Chancellor Sir Colin Lucas
- President Emeritus of Columbia University George Erik Rupp
- President Emerita of Barnard College Judith R. Shapiro
- President Emeritus of George Washington University Stephen Joel Trachtenberg
- President of the Rockefeller University and Nobel Prize laureate Torsten N. Wiesel
In addition to the added credibility of a real leadership team and accreditation, they expanded their degree offerings to their current menu:
Community Health Science
For those who don’t need a Regionally Accredited degree, this university just got real. University of the People is now considered a legitimate online university and is listed in the US Department of Education Database as accredited. Wow!
University of the People is the first worldwide tuition-free university. They are totally online (no room and board cost), provide your textbooks (electronically, so no shipping or rental fees), and don’t charge tuition. But, they do charge a test proctor fee ($100) at the end of each course for the final exam. In addition, if $100 is a financial hardship, they also offer scholarships! From their website:
It is the University’s mission to provide affordable, tuition-free education for everybody. UoPeople is tuition-free, not free. You will never be asked to pay for courses, course material or annual enrollment fees. There is a nominal $60 Application Processing Fee for all applicants as well as a $100 Exam Processing Fee for each exam ($200 for the MBA). Based on this, an associate’s degree can be completed in 2 years for $2060, a bachelor degree can be completed in 4 years for $4060, and an MBA can be completed in 15 months for $2460. UoPeople will never request these amounts upfront, but rather students will pay each Exam Processing Fee by the end of each exam period. These modest fees ensure that the University remains sustainable and can continue to provide quality education for everybody.
There are scholarships available for those students who cannot afford the nominal processing fees of the University. It is the University’s belief that everyone deserves the right to an education, and that no one should be left behind due to financial constraints.
(from UoPeople website) What Credits Are Accepted at UoPeople?
University of the People will consider transferring credits earned at accredited US universities and accredited universities outside of the U.S. UoPeople will also consider credits earned from College Board AP tests or evaluated by ACE (including CLEP).
UoPeople will consider accepting transfer credit for a course in any instance in which the course content is equivalent to that of one of UoPeople’s courses or in which the course may be used towards an elective credit in a UoPeople degree program. UoPeople may award the transfer of up to 50% of the required program credits.
Ok – so, let’s talk about transfer credit, and how this applies to my second rule:
Colleges I share must be open to high school homeschooled students – this one isn’t.
It’s true that as a homeschooled high school student, you wouldn’t be eligible for admission. (18 years old and a High School Diploma are required for admission) but with their new transfer credit acceptance policy, you can DIY 50% of this degree while you’re still in high school. For those seeking an Associate’s Degree, that allows for 30 credits of transfer, and for those seeking a Bachelor’s Degree, you’ll be allowed to transfer in 60 credits.
Let me add, that while they will accept credit into their program, it is unlikely that you’d get to transfer course credit out of their program into a different program. In other words, if you start there, finish there.
Last comment: this is not a self-paced independent study program. They have 3 terms per year, an academic calendar, application and graduation cycles – the whole thing. So, if you’re considering the program, you’ll have to verify the application period in advance.
DIY 30 or 60 credit transfer plans by request: I want to extend an offer to help any parent or teen match up the correct CLEP, AP, DSST, or ACE credits to align with the max allowable credit accepted by University of the People.
If you or your teen plans to attend, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message and we’ll get started.
Any degree plans we create will be shared here to help others.
If you’d like to hear from someone much smarter than I am, the founder of Univerity of the People, Shai Reshef, gives a TED talk about how higher education is changing “from being a privilege for the few to a basic right, affordable and accessible for all.”