$25-million investment supports initiative to create elite US university

April 4, 2012

Backed by a $25-million investment from Benchmark Capital and a star-studded list of advisers (including former Harvard University president Larry Summers), the man behind the Minerva Project aims to create "the first elite American university to be launched in a century." Ben Nelson, the CEO of the photo-sharing site Snapfish, says Minerva plans to define "elite" differently from Ivy League and other highly selective institutions, at a lower price. Students will be admitted through a rigorous 2-step process based on academic credentials and an interview to test an applicant's drive, analytical skills, and goals. Factors that may help a student get admitted to a highly selective institution -- such as money -- will not be considered at Minerva, Nelson says. Geography will also not be an admissions factor, so he expects the vast majority of students will come from outside the US. Minerva aims to hire top professors to develop their own online lectures and course materials, and students will also sift through that material in 25-student interactive seminars led by instructors. A residential option will allow students to reside in dormitories in major cities worldwide, where they can experience the same kind of peer encounters that enhance the education at liberal arts and other residential institutions. Inside Higher Ed | Minerva Project