University of the People review
"University of the People" uopeople.edu, also known as "University of the Scammers"
The Israeli diploma mill ✡ that claims to be an "American university"
University of the People: the biggest diploma mill in the world
University of the People (www.uopeople.edu) is an online for-profit Israeli diploma mill that bills itself as a non-profit "American university" in California. Just like any diploma mill, if you go to their alleged current address "595 E. Colorado Boulevard. Suite 623 Pasadena, CA 91101, USA" you won't see any "universities"; you will find a PO box in a shared office instead, which they rent from https://www.loopnet.com/Listing/595-E-Colorado-Blvd-Pasadena-CA/4109015/ and which you can rent yourself — yes, you can get UoPeople's address too. The same goes for the two different previous PO boxes used by UoPeople. In other words, you can't visit this "university", simply because it doesn't exist — unless you consider a $80 PO box, managed by a person with a computer in Israel, as a "university". And if you try to phone them, things don't get better: it is just a dummy voicemail service running on a virtual phone number, and they have no real US landlines (or mobile phone lines) whatsoever.
However, University of the People claims not to be a diploma mill because "we do not give credit for relevant life experience". This explanation is trivial, because more than 95% of UoPeople.edu customers are students who do not have any "relevant life experience", so there is no need to take "experience" into consideration: it would even be counterproductive, because it would highlight their inexperience. Besides, "life experiences" are optional: a diploma mill may well only sell degrees for a fee — usually a few thousand dollars — which is exactly what University of the People does. Considering that UoPeople.edu claims to have more than 100,000 paying students, it is plausible that University of the People is the biggest diploma mill in the world — though UoPeople's numbers should always be taken with a pinch of salt because they can't be verified by anyone and therefore they may well be invented.
UoPeople.edu acceptance rate: 100%
Many people from Africa and Asia send a fake high school diploma and get "admitted", as long as they start paying: the first fee is $60, which is actually a lot of money in several developing countries, and the following ones are $120 each. University of the People claims this is not tuition but "administrative fees" — or occasionally "assessment fees" even if there is nothing to assess. Besides, you don't even have to understand English. It goes without saying that you can send a fake diploma from any country, as long as it has a nice fake stamp with a fake signature on it.
The education revolution by eliminating professors and other "useless old stuff"
Just like any diploma mill, University of the People has no professors, no real instructors, no video courses and no original study material. The most frequently recommended sources are Wikipedia pages that may contain mistakes, or PDF files downloaded from various colleges' websites without asking permission from the authors and/or the owners. Those PDF files could also have mistakes or even be technically corrupt, but UoPeople doesn't care.
We logged on to the "platform" and recorded a video. This is what you find in the members-only area of uopeople.edu: basically a few broken PDFs downloaded from random websites, an underpaid "volunteer instructor", some cheating "students", and some non-English-speaking African boys who are supposed to assess your "essays" in English through the highly controversial UoPeople's "peer-assessment" mechanism. Enjoy!
Anyway, this alleged "study material" is irrelevant for the purpose of the final exam, which is a childproof online multiple choice test. The "test" has the same questions as the weekly quizzes, which you can learn by heart and take infinitely — by clicking at random too — until you get the best score.
Fake names of professors
The public website lists high-sounding names from all over the world, but none of them actually teach at University of the People. Some of them are also retired. Basically, the webmaster has been authorized to publish their resume, which is also a great way to cheat Google and other search engines: whenever you look up the name of one those professors, you come across UoPeople's website — usually in the first result page — which could suggest that those people teach there. Too bad if you enroll at University of the People, you will find none of them. Actually, you will find no professors at all.
On the other hand, the webmaster has not been authorized to publish other organizations' logos, such as the United Nations, WASC (huge logo of an accrediting body) or Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Deloitte, IBM, you name it. In his opinion, all these unauthorized logos make the website "more professional" and help the organization sell more "degrees"; in our opinion, they help the website look more ridiculous instead, and deceptive. When UoPeople.edu was created, they claimed their "alumni" to work at Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google and other giants… but they couldn't have any alumni simply because the website had just been created. In fact, University of the People's bad reputation is embarrassing in a résumé, and some people started to omit this name due to the prevalent understandable discrimination from employers towards shady offshore diploma mills. Hundreds of thousands of students graduate from schools having a real accreditation and a great reputation instead; how could a "degree" issued by an offshore degree mill compete with them all?
One of UoPeople's ubiquitous advertising slogans is "The education revolution". On the whole, we totally agree: they claim to be an education institution, without any professors, without a real address or phone number, and only mooching stuff off other people or organizations — so they can make money online from Israel — which is a revolution for sure.
The for-profit Israeli company that doesn't pay taxes in the US
University of the People Education Ltd is the company that runs UoPeople.edu — not the other way around as claimed by UoPeople's owner Shai Reshef, who runs this for-profit scam. It is located in Tel Aviv and employs some Israeli people, although other underpaid people, misleadingly called "volunteers", also work remotely off the books from other countries — Nigeria, India and other cheap labor countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Malaysia, Philippines, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia. The company created a different dummy organization in the US, called "University of the People" (without Ltd), which managed to get non-profit status in the US, claiming that the Israeli company "offers online technical and administrative services" for the US empty box and is a "subsidiary" of the empty box itself. This scheme allows the alleged "non-profit American university" to transfer millions of dollars every year — collected from students — to the for-profit Israeli company, which consequently avoids US taxes. You don't need to be an expert in financial engineering to understand this simple tax-efficient way to hide an offshore company: you just have to read the mandatory IRS Form 990 that UoPeople, which claims to be "nonprofit", must file every year. It is publicly available at irs.gov. However, they don't disclose that University of the People Education Ltd is the real puppet master behind the dummy virtual "University of the People" using a hidden PO box in California.
History of University of the People
Is UoPeople accredited and tuition-free?
UoPeople.org used to be a tuition-free website — mind you, it was just a website, not a school — which could send you a diploma for free. You didn't have to pay anything: it was free because you had no real courses or exams. Needless to say, the diploma was completely useless, unless you wanted to use it as a novelty to hang on the wall. In our view, it was completely useless as a novelty too, because, honestly, "University of the People" was not the best name they could come up with — but that is another story. Anyway, since this thing was free, it could not be considered a scam yet. Anyway, don't confuse a simple website like that with MOOC websites such as Coursera: the latter offers thousands of real courses, while the former didn't have anything.
However, in 2014, the Israeli investor Shai Reshef, former owner of a for-profit e-learning company which he sold to the for-profit education giant Kaplan, managed to accredit his own UoPeople.org website through a dead, inactive, non-regional accreditation agency called DETC (Distance Education and Training Council), which came back to life out of the blue thanks to the money paid by Reshef himself to accredit UoPeople.org. From that moment on, Reshef claimed his empty website to be an "accredited American university" and changed its name into UoPeople.edu — he just bought a new web domain. The dead DETC was promptly renamed into DEAC (Distance Education Accrediting Commission) too — by changing one letter: DE
TC→DEAC — just to look less suspicious and to give the impression that it had nothing to do with the same dead accreditation agency. University of the People was born, hurray! Here comes the "university" that helps humanity, saves the world and eliminates poverty. Becoming a "non-profit website" — it was still free — was the icing on the cake.
However, the new UoPeople.edu ceased to be free pretty soon. Indeed, Reshef came up with a new — and deliberately ambiguous — advertising slogan: "tuition-free university". In other words, the new UoPeople.edu website claimed you didn't have to pay tuition — which is not surprising, because it was not even a school — but, unlike the old UoPeople.org website, it had new "administrative fees". More specifically, you must pay a few thousand dollars to get your UoPeople.edu diploma — which is what most international diploma mills charge — whereas the old UoPeople.org diploma used to be free. At the moment, the old UoPeople.org domain redirects to UoPeople.edu.
In any case, DEAC is not a regional accreditation body. In the USA, "regional accreditation" is the most reputable form of accreditation, which allows students and graduates to transfer credits from an institution to others, or to qualify for state licensure. This means that UoPeople.edu is not regionally accredited in America.
Bottom line: is it true that "University of the People" is "accredited" and "tuition-free"? Answer: yes roughly speaking it might be true, but it is just a big joke.
Fake news about WASC regional accreditation
WASC Senior College and University Commission is a serious regional accrediting body, unlike UoPeople's DEAC. In February 2020, UoPeople claimed to be going to receive WASC regional accreditation. WASC didn't issue any statements but UoPeople started to bombard Internet forums, social networks, YouTube etc. claiming that they were going to be accredited. Fake news! You just have to read the official page https://www.wscuc.org/institutions instead of UoPeople's fake articles: University of the People is just a "candidate", which means it is not accredited by WASC because UoPeople's application was rejected. UoPeople can try again in a few years, but nobody really knows when it will be accredited (assuming it will be accredited). Besides, accreditation is a long process — unless you get accredited immediately by accreditation mills such as DETC-DEAC.
Fake worldwide accreditation
University of the People sells many degrees in Africa and Asia. Unfortunately, people in those countries don't know that UoPeople degrees are not accredited there and are therefore useless: very few (important) universities in the world have multiple international accreditations, which allow them to issue degrees in more than one country. This is not the case with the tiny University of the People, which is barely accredited in the US and is unaccredited in the rest of the world.
Unaccredited laughable UoPeople MBA
There exist four important accrediting agencies for MBA programs: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB, chiefly American), the Association of MBAs (AMBA, chiefly British), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP, chiefly American), and the EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS, chiefly European). The best MBA programs hold accreditation from one or more of these accrediting bodies.
Since UoPeople.edu is not accredited by any of them, its "MBA" is just a ridiculous piece of paper, devoid of recognition in the business world, which you could have printed yourself without paying thousands of dollars to the Israeli "University of the People Education Ltd" diploma mill.
UoPeople claims that other MBAs are "too expensive", while UoPeople's MBA is a bargain and an "education revolution". However, after attending a legit business school, accredited by a legit business accrediting body, you will receive a respectable and accredited real MBA. Operating a business school — not a tiny offshore virtual diploma mill — is expensive, which is why a real MBA program is "expensive".
But even if it's not free, UoPeople is still a bargain!
Shortly after you find out that UoPeople is not "tuition-free" as ads and misleading articles claim, UoPeople reps usually respond that "it's tuition-free but not completely free, and it's a bargain because it's low-cost". First of all, "low-cost" and "free" are two different concepts — funnily, they "offer an MBA" and a "bachelor/associate of science in business administration" but don't seem to understand the basics — therefore, if your business model is low-cost, your misleading ads should state "low-cost tuition", and not "tuition-free".
That being said, you are ripping us off anyway. It is like saying: "I could steal $50,000, but I'm a nice person so I'll only steal $4,000". Either way, you are stealing our money! The fact that you charge $4,000 instead of $50,000 is no excuse for engaging in fraudulent, aggressive and deceptive practices, let alone passing yourself off as a philanthropist who is helping the poor in Africa, Asia etc.
Besides, since University of the People claims the money to be "administrative fees" and not tuition, students are not eligible for federal grants, aid or subsidized student loans.
Testimony of a former instructor
«Last year I was hired by this online Israeli school. The salary was very low, and they had me sign a contract stating I must not talk to anyone about the contract itself — NDA, non disclosure agreement — which is weird for an alleged non-profit organization. Basically they have you work illegally and say you are a "volunteer" just to avoid legal actions and taxes. I quit because I was fed up with this scam. In retaliation, they didn't pay my hours. They are making money from the poor students from underdeveloped countries, and cheating many charity organizations promising they will provide plenty of scholarships for Bachelors and MBAs… which I have never seen.»
Uncensored UoPeople reviews written by students
Leaving UoPeople.edu: impossible, unless you pay again
«I am currently in the process of attending another school, which needs all the transcripts, whether they take credits or not. I made my request and paid my transcript fees — yet another fee! — to UoPeople almost three months ago, and about a week ago I emailed the faculty to check on the status of the transcript. I got an email back saying they never received the request form or the payment. I had to go back, forward the original email with form and receipt (which they had sent me). A week later, there is still no update on whether they are doing anything about it. It looks like they don't want me to go because they want more money. A fellow student, who wanted to switch schools as well, went through the same dilemma. Don't be fooled by UoPeople reps' fake reviews. If you still have the chance, avoid all these troubles and apply to a local community college, which is a real school, and try to get real scholarships or financial aid. University of the People is not worth the money: it is just a waste of time and money, no matter how much.»
Do you understand? Pay again!
«I live in the third world. Not only did UoPeople refuse to get me a scholarship, but when I ran out of money and couldn't pay the last "fee" the website wouldn't let me in anymore. That is, if you don't pay, they have your account disabled and you can't log in to the website anymore. This is racketeering, in addition there is tax evasion, now I only wonder how they launder money overseas.»
Peer-assessment (and pay again!)
«UoPeople's "peer assessment" is driving me crazy. I did my assignment and got a zero (wow…) just because all the three peers that were supposed to grade my assignment forgot to grade it (or maybe they couldn't grade it, go figure). I feel kind of cheated because I did my grading as I was supposed to and I have yet to hear anything from the volunteer (❓) instructor to address it. She is ignoring my emails; it looks like she is on vacation or maybe she left the course. I also suspect the instructor's name is completely invented. I don't want to waste my time anymore and I'm thinking of just going back to the online school I was at, which at least was regionally accredited. And please don't tell me to pay another fee to leave your "school", for heaven's sake.»
Students should deeply research the schools they are sending money to, and supervisory authorities at the state, federal and international level could also do a much better job ensuring these schools are what they claim to be and delivering what they advertise. "University of the People" is a symptom of today's "education revolution" environment, warped by profit, advertising and an alarming paucity of basic skepticism that prevents people from realizing that nothing can be free (or "tuition-free") in this world — as a matter of fact, operating a real university is necessarily very expensive and complex — and the ads about a "free international accredited university" are too good to be true: red flag! In other words, you don't have to be a detective to discover the truth: you just have to use your head and beware of any organization that asks for money and you can't even visit in person.
Last but not least, if UoPeople.edu really wanted to help the poor and eliminate poverty, why don't they build schools wherever there are none, and invite poor young students without telling them to pay thousands of dollars in "non-refundable administrative fees"? Selling ridiculous online degrees is completely useless, because the poorest people in the world still do not even have Internet access, and these "degrees" are not accredited in their African or Asian countries, nor are they recognized by WES for immigration purposes.