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With New Partnership, The Minerva Project Takes a Big Step Toward Officialdom

By teaming up with Keck Graduate Institute, the world’s “first startup elite university” now has accreditation and a lot more to offer its students.

With New Partnership, The Minerva Project Takes a Big Step Toward Officialdom

Launched with fanfare (and $25 million in venture capital) in 2012, the Minerva Project purports to be the first startup elite university in 100 years, and the first to be fully designed from the ground up to take advantage of the latest in the science and technology of learning and teaching. Groups of students will live together in cities around the world while pursuing blended learning, seminar-style classes, both online (through live video) and offline. And tuition will cost half of what it does at equivalent institutions.

Today Minerva announced that they’ll pursue a path to traditional accreditation through a partnership with the Keck Graduate Institute. The match is a bit strained–Minerva has been pitching itself as the ultimate liberal arts institution, while Keck, founded in 1997 and based in Claremont, CA, is limited to graduate degrees in biosciences. However, Minerva’s founder and CEO Ben Nelson calls it a logical choice. He points out that Keck is a member of the Claremont Consortium, which also includes Harvey Mudd and Claremont-McKenna College, two of the most prestigious colleges to be founded in the last 50 years. “Being a member of a consortium that is about very high-end innovation is obviously the perfect place for us,” Nelson tells Fast Company. Pilot classes will begin in fall 2014.

It’s a time of great interest in new models for college. Since Minerva’s launch, Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, like those offered by Udacity, Coursera , and edX have dominated the chatter about educational innovation, with a focus on free access for millions of people around the world. But Minerva has pursued a different path, pitching itself toward a global elite and bringing in big names like former New School president Bob Kerrey and Nobel Laureate Roger Kornberg and announcing a $500,000 prize for innovation in teaching. Like 2U, a startup that partners with prestigious universities to bring live, video-based, labor-intensive online courses, and that has collected almost $100 million in venture capital, they’re building the hi-fi version of tech-enabled learning. With this partnership, Minerva is one step closer to its goals.

[Walking Graduates: Stephen Coburn via Shutterstock]

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.