Minerva Schools at K.G.I.

The ambition of the Minerva Schools at K.G.I., which calls itself the first elite American university to open in 100 years, is certainly not modest. The founder, Ben Nelson, a businessman with a longstanding armchair interest in education, aims to mount a stripped-down, low-cost challenge to Harvard.
The pedigree of those involved is elite enough. Mr. Nelson, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, was president of the photo site Snapfish when it sold to Hewlett-Packard for a reported $300 million. Bob Kerrey, former New School president and United States senator, is executive chairman. Lawrence H. Summers, the former Harvard president and Treasury secretary, is an adviser. And dean of arts and sciences will be Stephen Kosslyn, a former Harvard dean. ...
“We want to start one of the world’s great universities from scratch,” Mr. Nelson says. “We want to rethink everything, and bring together the world’s best curriculum, the best students, the best professors, at the lowest possible price.”

That will be $10,000 in tuition a year, with an overall cost of attendance estimated at $28,850 (average cost of a private college: $40,917). The for-profit start-up has raised $25 million in venture capital. Mr. Nelson plans to save money by stripping his offering to the essentials, which he defines as peer contact and (nontenured) faculty. “We didn’t load on costs like the campuses, the monuments, the sports franchises, the performing arts centers,” he says.

Though defined as residential, Minerva will own no real estate. Instead, students will live together in space rented by the college, initially in San Francisco. Eventually, they will move between world capitals over the course of their four years. The interdisciplinary core curriculum in liberal arts and sciences, focusing on critical thinking and communications skills, is to be delivered to them seminar style — face to face with mentors and in real-time video chat with professors over a software platform that tracks and analyzes student strengths and weaknesses.
- Anya Kamenetz, Harvard-Size Ambitions: Minerva Strives for Affordable Elitism, NYT, November 1, 2013

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