Free University? Maybe with Minerva

Students may soon be lining up to join in this project. The San Francisco-based Minerva Project is trying to remove the price tag from higher education and attract some of the world’s best and brightest for their class in the fall of 2014. Minerva founder Ben Nelson, who ran Snapfish before he sold it to Hewlett Packard in 2005, has the vision. As he explained, “Not only are we looking at students who are intellectually brilliant, we are looking for students who have a deep intellectual thought, deep integrative thought, worldliness, excitement about seeing the world, and maturity.”
He plans for the first class to have 15-19 students who are willing to help to shape the school. Now, before anyone gets too excited, it’s not going to be entirely free. The goal, however, is for tuition to be about $10,000 a year and for room and board to be about $19,000.
At the moment, Minerva is working with guidance counselors and high school principals around the world to find its first set of guinea pigs. Students will spend their first year in San Francisco and then rotate to other cities that have not yet been determined. The set-up of the school is going to be seminar-oriented with many free online classes.
So far, they have raised $25 million from Benchmark, a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm. And they have many people interested. Larry Summers, a former president of Harvard University, is an adviser for Minerva and former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey is the executive chairman. Stephen Kosslyn, who was the dean of social sciences at Harvard and an academic at Stanford, will be in charge of recruiting faculty.