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The MBA That Won’t Set You Back $100K

While packing my fruit Wednesday morning, I heard a shocking statement on NPR–”free M.B.A. ….” Free M.B.A.? My interest was piqued.

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I soon heard Kai Ryssdal describing the University of the People, a tuition-free online university that offers four undergraduate degrees and is now launching an M.B.A. program. The total cost for the latter? $2,400, but there are scholarships if even that is too much for you.

Is the degree worth it?

A spokesman from the school conceded that if you can get admitted to a name university and afford the tuition, you should probably go for it. But how many people can afford to pay for a master’s in business administration–or worse, go into debt to fund it?

On the other hand, if you want to acquire the executive skills of an M.B.A. holder, pursuing this degree may make sense.

A nonprofit institution that is fully accredited, the University of the People offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in computer science and business administration. To be accepted to its M.B.A. program, you must take certain prerequisites, such as statistics, accounting, and economics. You also must have a degree (of course) and a grade point average of at least 2.5.

Courses are taught by retired and current professors, and the school appears to have a good reputation where it counts. It includes heavyweights like Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard as partners.

I spoke briefly with the president and founder of the university, Shai Reshef, who has been widely recognized for his ingenious idea, including being named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. His TED Talk, “An Ultra-Low-Cost College Degree,” has been viewed by more than 2.5 million people.

Are there rolling admissions?

There are five terms a year, each is nine weeks long. So, yes, you can apply and be admitted during any one of those terms.

What are the fees for?

The fees run about $200 per semester and are for processing exams.

How long would it take to complete the M.B.A.?

If you take two courses a semester, which is considered full time, you can be finished in 15 months. Or you can take a break if you want. You can take up to five years.

What kind of student best benefits from a program like this?

The online coursework requires self-discipline and motivation. You need to be active. However, we have more than 3,000 students from all over the world, so studying with them is very engaging, very interactive, and very satisfying.

For more information about University of the People, go to its website.

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