Education: Kepler, American University Degree for only $1,000

| Kepler
By Wellars Muhoza

Kepler is a university with a campus in Kigali Rwanda that was opened in 2013 with the goal to award US equivalent degrees with the lowest cost possible, currently $1000 tuition per year.

The endeavor blends online course from top US and European university with both intensive traditional academic student-professor learning while awarding American accredited degrees after a word class educational experience to prepare student for the job market.

The institution is nonprofit and it is designed for the developing world. Kepler’s pilot campus opened in Rwanda in 2013, and its goal is to create a global network of universities that deliver the skills that emerging economies need for a price that our students can afford. For that, Kepler is setting an ambitious target: provide an American-accredited degree, a world class education, and a clear path to good jobs for thousands of students for around $1,000 tuition per year.

Alex Hague, the University cofounder asserts that the goal is to become the best university: “I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that we could be one of the country’s best universities from Day 1,” he said. He added: “The dream is we want basically to provide a higher education experience that’s internationally competitive, for a cost that’s radically less than the regional competition.”

Kepler is affiliated to the NGO, Generation Rwanda that has been putting groups of 20 or 30 of the brightest of vulnerable young people through local universities. The organization gradually developed a full complement of support services—counseling, health care, and “soft skills” like resume prep—to ensure their success. Ninety-eight percent of participants have ultimately graduated, and 98% are also employed.

But there were two problems, from Generation Rwanda’s point of view. One is that this model did not scale. “Two hundred graduates in nine years is amazing, but there’s this looming crisis, a huge youth bubble in Africa,” Hague says. “Only 7% of the population can pursue any kind of formal higher education now, and tens of millions of people will need it in the coming decades.”

The other weakness was that the quality of regional universities—varying between $2,000-$3,000 annual tuition, very expensive by local standards—left a lot to be desired. “The education system tends to be ‘learn by rote,’ not particularly progressive,” says Hague.