Israeli entrepreneur Shai Reshef announced his plans for a new online university that will use free online course material, volunteer professors, and social networking to instruct students worldwide. The University of the People will not charge tuition, but will charge some small fees for enrollment and testing, likely to range between $10 and $100, with students from poor countries paying the least and students from rich countries paying the most.
The university will officially open in the fall of 2009 with an anticipated enrollment of 300 students in two degree programs: business administration and computer science. Reshef plans to soon apply for accreditation and to eventually build enrollment to over 10,000.
While there is some skepticism about the university's ultimate success, the groundwork on which its offerings are based is well-established. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched its Open Courseware Consortium in 2001, and since then universities have made a wide range of course material accessible for free online, through that program and others. Already, undefinedonline courses are widely popular, as are online degree programs. Even without free tuition, attending college online can save money for many students, as it allows for a more flexible schedule and eliminates the need for an extensive commute or on-campus housing.
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