Shai Reshef worked in the for-profit education sector for over 20 years and has been a longtime supporter of online learning platforms. “I saw first-hand how great online learning could be,” says Reshef. “Students from all over the world were able to stay with their families, keep their jobs and still get a great education.”

BANG WITHOUT BUCK: For many, education is achievable, yet for many more, education is inaccessible. With Reshef's program, schooling is brought close enough to touch, and then firmly grasp.

But he was also dissatisfied with the inaccessible nature of higher education—the enormous financial and time commitments are too much of a burden for too many people. “Online learning was proving to be a great success, [but] I started to feel that something was missing. I was conscious that, for most people, getting a great education is nothing but wishful thinking,” says Reshef.

Using what you have

In order to continue working in education, Reshef felt he would have to create something new. “If I want to make an impact on the world, it must be through education, because if you educate one person you can change a life, but if you educate many you can change the world.”

“‘I was conscious that, for most people, getting a great education is nothing but wishful thinking.’”

He looked to open-source technology and social networking culture, where people “share, teach and learn from each other for free.” Harnessing these existing platforms, he created the world’s first non-profit, tuition-free, accredited online university, called University of the People.

Word of mouth is the best press for the university, according to Reshef. But, the “main challenge has been spreading the word to the populations where students need us the most.” It’s an ongoing challenge, but the university relies on dedicated volunteers to help cut costs and connect with students.

Creating partnerships

To increase opportunities available to students, The University of the People has developed partnerships with other institutions; the first being New York University in 2011, which gave high-performing students eligibility for admission into NYU with a generous scholarship. The latest partnership is with the University of California, Berkeley.

The MBA program

With the exorbitant costs of attaining an MBA, there was a strong demand from the university’s student body to start a program. “Launching the world’s most cost-effective MBA was a natural progression for the university, and hopefully, it will pave the way for other universities to follow.”

Within the first two months of launching the program there were over 6,100 applicants from 170 countries. Rashef maintains a strong focus on providing access to the degrees that are in highest demand worldwide, thus increasing job opportunities on a local level.