Hey, kid. Want to live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have an “intensive,” “rigorous,” higher education experience “among the world’s most creative and motivated young people” “solving humanity’s grand challenges” without having to attend a traditional university?
Well, you could go to Singularity University. Or apply for a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship. Or, as of today, you can apply for the “founding class” of the Minerva Project, which calls itself the first startup elite university for almost 100 years.
Since it scored $25 million of venture capital in April of 2012, the Minerva Project has been steadily hiring high profile faculty and advisors, (including Bob Kerrey, formerly of the New School, and Larry Summers, formerly of Harvard). They got accreditation through a partnership with an existing institution.
Founder Ben Nelson, who started the photo site Snapfish, promises a best-in-class, 100%-seminar, interdisciplinary “great books” style curriculum delivered in a blended learning format as students live together in urban settings all over the world. They are recruiting in Mumbai, Montevideo, Shanghai, and Dakar. And they’ve set their prices with that international crowd in mind: $10,000 for tuition, or $28,850 for tuition, fees, room and board–compared to an average of $39,518 for private universities in the U.S.
That money doesn’t buy you a campus or a football team to cheer for or even a single ivory tower. Nelson is betting that a few thousand top achievers from around the world will be happy to be freed to focus instead on small group interaction with a roster of laureled faculty–and he’s making the even bigger bet that at this price point he’ll be able, at scale of a few thousand students, to become profitable and pay off his investors. “We’re trying to increase quality without adding frills,” he says. “We’re hoping to put together the best technology platform, the best faculty, and the best students.”
[Image: Flickr user Paul Stainthorp]