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What is the Minerva Project?

The Minerva Project is a new elite university created by Ben Nelson, the founder of Snapfish. It also has Larry Summers the former President of Harvard University for its board.

In this interview Ben Nelson highlights the core principles of the new university and some potential problems.

  • The Minerva Project is estimated to have its first class in 2014.
  • The school wants to evaluate students based on their ability to be “brilliant” and change the world. I suspect this means a change in how they look for students and potentially avoiding standardized tests.
  • The school does not have Accreditation yet
  • Tuition is estimated at $20k a year to start.
  • The school seems to feed off the high quality students that Yale and Harvard may reject.
  • It is largely lecture/discussion based and all online.

A few major issues with their strategy so far:

  • Their costs are estimated to be well above their revenue for a while. Without sustained funding the school will fail. Especially since they don’t have an endowment to fall back on.
  • There is no clear value proposition for a student that could go to Harvard to join Minerva. Most people who apply to Harvard apply to several schools. Where will Minerva fall within that list of priorities?
  • For high quality students, they usually expect scholarships. This adds on to the costs yet again and potentially may push away attractive students.
  • Professors are a wildcard, where will they come from? Will they be able to adapt to an online environment?
  • Who is to say that the costs don’t explode just like a regular university?
  • Will employers still value this degree?
  • Without accreditation will this school ever get off the ground?
  • Will their curriculum be relevant to real world jobs/careers?

This is one concept which has received a lot of money and has some major name backing but I am not really seeing a true differentiation point to their plan. As a parent or a student, I don’t see any reason to join a group of people who didn’t get into Harvard.  Perhaps I am missing something…