Is University of the People a Scam? What’s the Catch with “Tuition-Free”?

What’s the catch with University of the People? Is it a scam or is University of the People legit? Discover the real truth on how UoPeople provides tuition-free degrees and what happens with our graduates.

It might have crossed your mind once or twice. Is UoPeople a real university?


In a world where some American charge over $300,000 for a degree, and those that are considered affordable charge at least $16,000, how is possible for the University of the People to offer a tuition-free degree, and only charge $4,000 for processing fees during the entire 4 year program (or $2,000 total if you get a 2 year associate’s degree)?


And can you really live as far away as Nigeria and get a university degree from an accredited American university, where professors from universities like NYU are leading academically, all without leaving your home?


And if you’re in the US, can you really get a degree despite being undocumented, a single mom, or a busy professional, on your own schedule, and have it count in the workplace?


If you think that sounds too good to be true – if you’re worried University of the People is a scam or there’s a hidden catch – you’re not alone.


Years ago, this was just a dream for us too. But we’ve spent years working with some of the brightest minds in the world to turn it into reality.


Today, we want to take you behind the curtain and show you how it is more than possible to make education accessible to almost everyone in the world.

What’s the Catch? Here’s How University of the People Affords to Offer Tuition-Free Academic Degrees

University of the People is a nonprofit, a movement by people for people. We believe the number one goal of the Internet is to make knowledge and education accessible to anyone, anywhere, and that’s our goal here too.


But how do we do it and stay sustainable?


Choosing to be an exclusively online university dramatically reduces operation costs. We’re talking really large savings, without which it probably would have been significantly more challenging to offer tuition-free degrees.


Here are just a few of the ways we save money, so we can make education accessible to as many people as possible.



The Scam of the Internet: University of the People Has (Almost) No Campus Costs

Traditional universities have huge campuses, and huge campuses cost a lot of money.


For example, according to the Chicago Tribune, “Northwestern University owns 240 acres on the Evanston lakefront, plus real estate in Chicago’s expensive Streeterville neighborhood. The University of Chicago owns 217 acres in Hyde Park.”


What would it cost to buy a land like that?


According to the US Department of Agriculture, the 2017 average value per acre in that state, Illinois, was $7,300, reports Bloomberg. That means that, on average, it would cost $1,584,100 to buy a 217 acre land, and $1,752,000 to buy a 240 acre land.


Of course, that’s before you count the services of people who help you buy real estate, like real estate agents and lawyers, before the cost of building classrooms and offices, and before maintenance costs.


When you have a campus, you have electricity costs and water costs. You need to clean classes and hallways and offices, plant and nurture gardens, repair stuff that breaks – from computers to plumbing – and you need a ton of human resources to pull it off.


By staying an online-only university, University of the People saves significant expenses that are integral to traditional universities.


That means that traditional universities have really high costs – from a ton of employee salaries, through huge electricity, water and Internet connection bills for a huge property, to city taxes for a huge property.


The University of the People doesn’t have any of that, because everything we do is online. And yes, we have server costs and website costs just like any other online organization, but that doesn’t compare to the costs of a traditional campus.


Instead of putting all that extra money in our pocket – which might not be a scam, but would definitely go against our mission to make higher education accessible – we simply charge less. If it costs us less, it shouldn’t cost you more.



There’s No Limit to the Number of Students We Can Accept

If you’ve read our blog before, you might know that there are many smart, qualified high school graduates who can’t go to college in some countries across the world simply because there aren’t enough seats in the campuses.


Here at University of the People, we can take on an unlimited number of new students in our virtual classes, and no one needs to stand at the back of the lecture hall. You can study from your favorite chair at home, at a coffee shop or the beach.


All University of the People Professors Have Volunteered to Teach Our Students (Here’s Why it’s Not a Scam)

Our professors already have jobs and earn salaries, and they choose to volunteer their time with University of the People, since they can make a huge difference in the lives of people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to education… from the comfort of their own homes.


As for us, since we have so many volunteers from the most respected universities in the world, we don’t need to recruit professors and pay each of them 6 figures a year to ensure the high quality of our courses.



The Written Educational Resources We Use are Free as Well

According to a quick 2017 post on the Yale University Library knowledge base, the “collection at Yale University Library includes more than 15 million volumes and information in all media, ranging from ancient papyri to early printed books to electronic databases.”


Let’s say they only paid $10 per book, and that’s already more than a $150,000,000 expense.


Being a higher education institution ourselves, we value learning and we value books, but to keep costs down, we tap into the highest quality of open educational resources (OER). These are resources whose license allows anyone to use them free of charge, and they’re accessible online, with the same intention as ours – to make education accessible to as many people as possible.


We don’t need to pass the cost to our students, either. By giving them access to open educational resources, we save our students an average of $1,200-1,300 in textbook expenses every year they study with us, at least according to American statistics.



Technology Helps Us Provide a Better Service to Our Students at a Fraction of the Price

To make sure our university programs are accessible to as many people as possible, we don’t use audio or video materials, only text materials. We made this choice to ensure anyone, with any Internet connection, not just broadband – which is expensive in some parts of the world – can study with us. Consequently, though, it reduces our online storage costs.


And speaking of student experience, since our classes take place online, students get placed in small classrooms of 20-30 students, so we can make sure that each of you gets individualized attention. As we said, thanks to technology, we can create as many classrooms as we need.


Technology also enables us to have people from different countries in the same classroom. According to our students, that helps them understand other cultures better and get business and career ideas they never would have thought of otherwise.


But what if you need additional help, the kind that your professors or fellow students can’t provide?


You can reach out to our advisors with the click of a button, without waiting in long lines or paying extra fees to get career advice.



Still Concerned that the University of the People is a Scam? Meet Our Partners

Another way we’re able to afford to provide tuition-free degrees is thanks to generous donations from a long list of organizations and individuals, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Facebook and Twitter – just to name a few.



Recently, for example, we’ve partnered with Simone Biles, Olympic Gold Medalist and world champion, who decided to not only be our ambassador, but also to launch the Simone Biles Legacy Scholarship Fund for those in foster care, and others who want to study at University of the People, but can’t afford our processing fees ($4,000 for an entire 4 year degree).


This was the scholarship launch announcement she shared with our founder, Shai Reshef:



Other organizations have partnered with us to impact our students one on one, like the mentorship program HP provided our female students, to make education more accessible to women.


Here’s what an HP executive, our founder Shai and one of our students, Iwona Bartosik Urbanowska, a mother of two, had to say about it:



And we’ve already mentioned some of our academic partners, like NYU.



Respected Publications from Across the World Trust that University of the People is Not a Scam

If you’re still concerned University of the People is a scam, check out what almost 200 articles from across the world had to say about us in publications like Inc, Forbes, the Associated Press, People, BuzzFeed, Vanity Fair, BBC, Financial Times and Fortune, among many others.



Is it Too Good to Be True? University of the People Graduates Get the Last Word

If you talk to our graduates, or watch the testimonials they’ve uploaded to YouTube, you’ll hear that many of them were hesitant to dream.


They, too, Googled for University of the People reviews to figure out if there’s a catch or a scam… or to get some hope.



But then they dared.


And now?


Now some of them are entrepreneurs.


Others have received promotions and salary increases.


Some work in leading companies such as Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Deloitte, HoneyWell, Dell, IBM, Microsoft and many more.


Click here to read and watch some of their stories.


Like them, you can realize your dreams. You can create a better life for yourself and change your family’s future. You don’t have to do it alone, though. We offer a variety of scholarships, and in every class, there are people from all over the world who experience the same challenges you do. They’ll walk with you, and we’ll walk with you, too, until everyone in the world can exercise their birthright and gain access to higher education.

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