An ultra-low-cost college degree | Shai Reshef

4,881,044 views ・ 2014-08-04

TED


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I would like to share with you a new model of higher education,
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a model that, once expanded,
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can enhance the collective intelligence
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of millions of creative and motivated individuals
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that otherwise would be left behind.
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Look at the world.
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Pick a place and focus on it.
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You will find humans chasing higher education.
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Let's meet some of them.
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Patrick.
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Patrick was born in Liberia to a family of 20 children.
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During the civil war,
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he and his family were forced to flee to Nigeria.
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There, in spite of his situation,
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he graduated high school with nearly perfect grades.
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He wanted to continue to higher education,
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but due to his family living on the poverty line,
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he was soon sent to South Africa
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to work and send back money to feed his family.
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Patrick never gave up his dream of higher education.
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Late at night, after work,
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he surfed the net, looking for ways to study.
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Meet Debbie.
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Debbie is from Florida.
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Her parents didn't go to college, and neither did any of her siblings.
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Debbie has worked all her life,
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pays taxes, supports herself month to month,
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proud of the American dream,
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a dream that just won't be complete without higher education.
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But Debbie doesn't have the savings for higher education.
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She can't pay the tuition.
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Neither could she leave work.
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Meet Wael.
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Wael is from Syria.
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He's experiencing firsthand
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the misery, fear and failure imposed on his country.
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He's a big believer in education.
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He knew that if he could find an opportunity for higher education,
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an opportunity to get ahead of the rest,
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he has a better chance to survive in a world turned upside down.
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The higher education system
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failed Patrick, Debbie and Wael,
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exactly as it is failing millions of potential students --
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millions that graduate high school,
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millions that are qualified for higher education,
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millions that want to study yet cannot access it for various reasons.
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First: financial.
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Universities are expensive; we all know it.
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In large parts of the world,
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higher education is unattainable for an average citizen.
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This is probably the biggest problem facing our society.
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Higher education stopped being a right for all
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and became a privilege for the few.
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Second: cultural.
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Students who are qualified for higher education
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can afford -- want to study -- cannot,
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because it is not decent, it is not a place for a woman.
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This is the story of countless women in Africa, for example,
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prevented from higher education because of cultural barriers.
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And here comes the third reason:
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UNESCO stated that in 2025,
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100 million students will be deprived of higher education,
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simply because there will not be enough seats to accommodate them,
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to meet the demand.
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They will take a placement test, they will pass it,
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but they still won't have access, because there are no places available.
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These are the reasons I founded University of the People,
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a nonprofit, tuition-free, degree-granting university
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to give an alternative,
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to create an alternative, to those who have no other;
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an alternative that will be affordable and scalable,
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an alternative that will disrupt the current education system,
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and open the gates to higher education for every qualified student
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regardless of what they earn, where they live,
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or what society says about them.
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Patrick, Debbie and Wael
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are only three examples out of the 1,700 accepted students
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from 143 countries.
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(Applause)
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Thank you.
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(Applause)
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We didn't need to reinvent the wheel.
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We just looked at what wasn't working
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and used the amazing power of the Internet
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to get around it.
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We set out to build a model
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that will cut down almost entirely the cost of higher education.
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And that's how we did it.
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First, bricks and mortar cost money.
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Universities have expenses that virtual universities don't.
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We don't need to pass these expenses on to our students.
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They don't exist.
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We also don't need to worry about capacity.
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There are no limits of seats in virtual university.
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Actually, nobody needs to stand at the back of the lecture hall.
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Textbooks are also something our students don't need to buy.
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By using open educational resources
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and the generosity of professors
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who are putting their material up free and accessible,
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we don't need to send our students to buy textbooks.
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All of our materials come free.
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Even professors,
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the most expensive line in any university balance sheet,
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come free to our students.
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Over 3,000 of them,
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including presidents, vice chancellors, professors and academic advisers
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from top universities such as NYU, Yale, Berkeley and Oxford,
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came on board to help our students.
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Finally, is our belief in peer-to-peer learning.
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We use this sound pedagogical model
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to encourage our students from all over the world
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to interact and study together,
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and also to reduce the time our professors need
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to labor over class assignments.
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If the Internet has made us a global village,
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this model can develop its future leadership.
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Look how we do it.
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We only offer two programs:
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business administration and computer science,
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the two programs most in demand worldwide,
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the two programs that are likeliest to help our students find a job.
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When our students are accepted,
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they are placed in a small classroom of 20 to 30 students,
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to ensure that those who need personalized attention get it.
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Moreover, for every nine-week course, they meet a new peer,
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a whole new set of students from all over the world.
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Every week, when they go into the classroom,
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they find the lecture notes of the week,
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the reading assignment, the homework assignment,
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and the discussion question, which is the core of our studies.
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Every week, every student must contribute to the class discussion,
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and also must comment on the contribution of others.
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This way, we open our students' minds,
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we develop a positive shift in attitude toward different cultures.
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By the end of each week, the students take a quiz,
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hand in their homework,
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which are assessed by their peers under the supervision of the instructors,
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get a grade, move to the next week.
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By the end of the course, they take the final exam,
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get a grade, and follow to the next course.
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We open the gates for higher education for every qualified student.
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Every student with a high school diploma,
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sufficient English and Internet connection
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can study with us.
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We don't use audio, we don't use video.
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Broadband is not necessary.
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Any student from any part of the world with any Internet connection
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can study with us.
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We are tuition free.
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All we ask our students to cover is the cost of their exams,
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100 dollars per exam.
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A full-time bachelor's degree student taking 40 courses
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will pay 1,000 dollars a year,
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4,000 dollars for the entire degree.
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And for those who cannot afford even this,
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we offer them a variety of scholarships.
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It is our mission that nobody will be left behind
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for financial reasons.
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With 5,000 students in 2016, this model is financially sustainable.
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Five years ago, it was a vision.
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Today, it is a reality.
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Last month, we got the ultimate academic endorsement to our model.
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University of the People is now fully accredited.
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(Applause)
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Thank you.
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(Applause)
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With this accreditation, it's our time now to scale up.
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We have demonstrated that our model works.
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I invite universities and, even more important,
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developing countries' governments,
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to replicate this model
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to ensure that the gates of higher education will open widely.
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A new era is coming --
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an era that will witness the disruption of the higher education model
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as we know it today,
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from being a privilege for the few
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to becoming a basic right, affordable and accessible for all.
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Thank you.
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(Applause)
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