University of the People receives $500,000 in funding from Ford Foundation toward Syrian refugee initiative


Pasadena, CA. June 13, 2017 University of the People (“UoPeople”), the world’s first tuition-free, non-profit, accredited, U.S. online university, has received half a million USD in funding from the Ford Foundation. The grant’s funds will be allocated towards core support of the university’s Syrian Refugees’ initiative. 


To date, the university has enrolled over 500 Syrian refugees, more than any other university in the world. Half of the Syrian students are in Syria, and the other half are dispersed in 40 other countries. Presently, there are over 100,000 qualified Syrian students left out of higher education. Many Syrian refugees qualified for higher education were either forced to leave their university or never had the chance to begin their studies because of the conflict. 


The University of the People has established a special scholarship fund for refugees who cannot afford the university’s modest $100 examination fees ($4,000 for a full four-year degree). The university’s ambitious project to admit more refugees, asylum seekers and Internally Displaced Persons builds on UoPeople’s previous experience with providing refugee assistance programs.


University of the People President Shai Reshef said, “We cannot thank the Ford Foundation enough for helping UoPeople reach this special milestone in our development. We are incredibly grateful for their support in this important project to opening the gates to higher education globally. Looking at the intolerable situation today, it is clear that the hardships refugees have experienced cannot be reversed; through education, however, their futures can be transformed.”


“High quality and accessible education is essential for all people to fulfill their potential and achieve stability for themselves and their community,” said David Barth, Ford Foundation Director of Youth Opportunity and Learning. “We are proud to support University of the People and efforts to expand opportunities for Syrian refugees.”


This grant follows other recent grants University of the People has received towards this initiative from: Fondation Hoffmann, The Oak Foundation and The Frankel Family Foundation.


UoPeople is now in its eighth year of operations and fully accredited. Students are placed in small virtual classes of 20 students from around the world and an instructor with whom they need to constantly interact. Students can study anytime, anywhere with any internet connection (without the need for broadband), making this an ideal solution for many refugee populations. Programs offered include Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration, Computer Science and Health Science, as well as an MBA.


About University of the People: Combining open-source technology, Open Educational Resources, peer-to-peer learning, and the assistance of volunteers, UoPeople is designed to provide access to college studies for qualified individuals, despite financial, geographic or societal constraints. UoPeople has enrolled over 7,500 students from 200 different countries and is supported by a network of over 6,000 dedicated volunteers from some of the best universities worldwide. More at


About The Ford Foundation: The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.


Contact: Sarah Vanunu

Director of Public Relations, University of the People

US: 626-219-8402; [email protected]