What does it take to become an elite university? If the $25 million first-round venture funding of Minerva is any indication, quite a bit. Minerva is a for-profit university hoping to edge into the Ivy League.
Entrepreneur Ben Nelson is sniping elite academics including Larry Summers, former president of Harvard, for the project. Minerva wants to offer an Ivy education with a non-Ivy price tag: perhaps under $20,000 a year.
Nelson’s goal is ambitious, and he seems open to new ideas in education like online learning. We can only hope that Nelson won’t simply copy the Ivy model and mentality, but can use his new platform to radically challenge educational orthodoxy. A new university without the longstanding baggage of a Harvard or Columbia could be a hotbed for experiments in learning and culture.
Larry Summers understands the process: “As in every other domain, much of the impetus for change [in education] will come from new entrants.”
We need to challenge the Ivy League monopoly with educational upstarts. A good education is not the purview of elites, and the only way we can provide high-quality, low cost education is through entrepreneurial innovation.