It’s election time. As is usual, we hear a lot about the high cost of higher education from all of the prospective presidential candidates, each of whom is working hard to connect with young voters. Yet when the election is over, very often the rhetoric about reducing college costs or helping struggling students tends to die down. Other priorities seem to rise to the foreground and very little is done to help with the cost of education.
However, the rhetoric regarding college education has been changing in recent years. More people are seeing higher education as a right, rather than a privilege. Public K-12 school was established with the idea that this basic level of education should be accessible to all, because it is difficult to make it in the world and be a contributive member of society without this basic education. As we continue through the digital age, K-12 education no longer provides that basic level of education needed to be successful – a college education or some kind of secondary vocational training is essential.
Places like the University of the People start for this very reason, stating clearly that everyone should have access to higher education. UoPeople is a non-profit university that is associated with and is partially supported by many groups such as the United Nations, UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization), and the Clinton Global Initiative.
The philosophy behind universities like this is simple: higher education creates economic development both on a global scale and on a personal scale. This is especially true in developing nations, where quite possibly the lack of access to education can keep entire societies in a position where they are unable to lift themselves out of poverty. The theory is: an educated world is a more productive and peaceful one. This is a sound theory, one proven in many parts of the world. India, for example owes its relative peace and rise as a developed nation at least in part to its efforts to educate its citizens.
At UoPeople, anyone who is qualified for higher education should be able to get it. A prospective student must be able to demonstrate that they have at least a 12th grade education in order to be ready for college level work; have a qualified level of English, and access to internet. Those who attend pay no tuition, simply a $100 exam fee at the end of each course and a one-time $50 application fee to register. For those who are unable to afford that, scholarships are available. The college is fully accredited, and the courses are online – so they can be taken from anywhere around the world. Currently there are Associates and Bachelor degrees in Business Administration and Computer Science available, but a new Health Science and MBA program will likely be added in time. In 2015, the school reached an enrollment level of 3,000 students.
While still in its infancy, the school is growing and providing a high quality education that will help students get high paying jobs later in life. The development of this school and the degree programs makes us wonder – will more schools like this pop up? Is this a possible template for universal college education in the future? It’s worth thinking about.