By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require some level of education beyond high school, according to a report from Georgetown University.
But when it comes to paying for college, the average undergraduate has more than $37,000 in student debt — and that amount only rises if you go for a master’s degree.
What if you could alleviate some of that pressure thanks to free tuition? That’s where University of the People and Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles come into play.
Here are five reasons Simone Biles and other students are pursuing higher education with University of the People.
1. Free tuition
One of the most exciting things about University of the People is the free college tuition it offers. You don’t have to pay a cent for teaching or instruction. You also don’t have to worry about enrollment fees or pay for course materials.
However, University of the People isn’t completely free.
You do need to pay a $60 application fee, and the school charges an assessment fee each time you complete a course. These fees are $100 per course for undergraduate work and $200 per course for the Master in Business Administration (MBA) program.
Here’s how much it would cost to finish different degree programs:
- Two-year associate’s degree: $2,060
- Four-year bachelor’s degree: $4,060
- 15-month MBA: $2,460
None of these fees are charged up front, though, so you don’t have to worry about paying everything all at once. You just need to pay for the courses you’re taking by the end of the exam period.
2. Scholarships for students who can’t afford fees
If University of the People students can’t afford any of the fees, there are scholarships offered through the school.
In fact, Simone Biles is so excited about joining University of the People as a student she’s also opening a scholarship fund. The Simone Biles Legacy Scholarship Fund is aimed at helping foster children get a higher education.
Other organizations offering scholarships and support for University of the People include Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard. University of the People is also supported by The Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, and companies such as Google, Intel, and Estee Lauder.
3. It’s an accredited university
University of the People is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), which is in turn recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United States Department of Education.
On top of that, University of the People has been recognized by the State of California as a degree-granting private institution.
4. Complete coursework on your schedule
For many students, irregular schedules and other obligations make it impossible to succeed in a traditional college environment.
“I had planned to attend UCLA, but had to defer because of my training schedule,” said Simone Biles, on the University of the People website. “University of the People offers me the flexibility I need to fit my studies around my career.”
Students with children, the need to continue working, or who don’t thrive in strictly regulated settings can benefit from an online education like the one offered by University of the People. Online courses allow you to complete your schoolwork on your own time.
5. You can get a job in your field
According to a survey conducted by University of the People, 92 percent of graduates are currently employed — and 80 percent work in a field related to their major.
University of the People also offers career services, and 69 percent of participants said they knew about or used those services. This means you can access resources to help you find a job when you finish attending University of the People.
One of the top three areas of employment for graduates is “small business owner.” Case in point: Simone Biles is enrolled in the business administration program and her mother, Nellie, is working on an MBA as well through the university.
Are there drawbacks to University of the People?
There has been some controversy surrounding University of the People since it was founded by Israeli businessman Shai Reshef in 2009. It took some time for the university to receive accreditation.
In fact, when the New York Times wrote a piece profiling some of the college’s graduates in 2013, University of the People hadn’t yet received official recognition. It wasn’t until 2014 that accreditation was finally achieved by the educational institution based out of Pasadena, California.
Additionally, there is a rather lengthy discussion about the institution on Ripoff Report. Among the issues that some students and others have with University of the People is the fact that, the DEAC, while recognized as legitimate, is a national — not regional — accrediting organization.
Regional accreditation is generally considered “better” by many employers. On top of that, you might not even be able to transfer credits to a school of your choice.
“State universities and private nonprofit universities are regionally accredited,” Susan Aldridge, a senior fellow at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities told U.S. News & World Report. “This is the most desirable accreditation because students taking courses at one regionally accredited university will be more likely to transfer their credits to another similar institution.”
Nationally accredited schools usually accept transfer credits from other colleges with national accreditation, but more “traditional” schools might not take your credits — or even recognize your associate’s degree.
However, some institutions like New York University, UC Berkeley, and The University of Edinburgh accept students from the University of the People.
Should you follow the academic footsteps of Simone Biles?
Whether you decide to follow the educational path of Simone Biles depends on your goals and expectations. If you hope for a degree to take you to the next level in your career, University of the People might be just the thing.
However, if your career plans require additional academic pursuits, this degree might not cut it. Carefully research the requirements of higher education institutions you plan to attend before getting your associate’s or bachelor’s degree with University of the People. You should also look into the types of degree requirements related to your preferred job positions.
In the end, online schools are still very new, and the prestige isn’t always quite there. Make sure to do your homework and confirm your degree will be worth the investment before enrolling in an online university.
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