Shai Reshef has a big goal for his new venture: He wants to offer low-cost, quality higher education all over the world, and particularly in countries where options are limited and students have relatively little money. His solution is the University of the People, which would offer free online degrees.
Students would pay to apply and to take courses, but fees would be on a sliding scale, based on the relative wealth of students' home countries, enabling students to graduate with a bachelor's degree for just a few thousand dollars or less. (The exam fees would run from $10 to $100.)
Students would do much of the teaching themselves, learning how to coach one another. Paid faculty members would direct the development of courses and volunteer faculty members (Reshef says he has hundreds of inquiries) would work with class sections. The peer-to-peer approach reflects another Reshef venture, Cramster.com, an online study community. Reshef is an education entrepreneur, having previously built a test-prep business in Israel (sold to Kaplan) and an online university in Europe (sold to Laureate).
The University of the People plans to start with bachelor's programs in business administration and computer science, with more programs (and associate degree offerings) in the works. The university is starting the process to gain accreditation. Reshef visited Inside Higher Ed Wednesday; portions of the discussion are available in this podcast interview.