Imagine that you're a bright young individual who has just finished high school. You're eager to explore the next steps on your educational path. Yet, for a variety of reasons, all you see is one closed door after another in your quest for higher education. With no way to pursue your studies, you may slowly become trapped in the all-too-familiar cycle of poverty and repression.
This is a reality for millions of individuals around the world. Even though they have the motivation and qualifications to pursue higher education, they don't have the means to do so. Several factors are at fault:
• Higher education is not affordable: Higher education costs are skyrocketing and people simply cannot afford the escalating prices.
• Insufficient facilities in the local region: For a number of places in the world, a potential student is either in or out to the region's local university based on the results of a placement exam. If the student doesn't pass the placement exam, there are no other available institutions located nearby for the student.
• Inability to leave families to go to facilities located elsewhere: For some potential students living in villages or towns in remote areas, they may be accepted to a university in the city and need to relocate. However, the lost wages of the potential student, coupled with tuition fees, would place an economic hardship on the family.
• Part of a cultural or political regime that restricts movements and opportunities of populations: In many parts of the world, certain social castes, ethnic groups, religious affiliations or genders are not allowed to access higher education. Women, in particular, tend to not have the ability to study at universities in many regions.
The Internet is the great equalizer that allows us to bypass these roadblocks and offer accessible education to people all over the world.
University of the People is not "reinventing the wheel" by offering education via the Internet. However, it's using the wheel efficiently to organize free and open educational resources into structured programs that, when combined with social networks and volunteer professors, can offer sustainable and affordable higher education. It has opened a door to higher education for millions, who otherwise don't have the opportunity.