Harvard and Princeton are so passé.

At least, that is what an audacious education startup is pinning faith on.

Minerva Schools at KGI, welcoming its first class this Fall, aims to be a contemporized alternative to elite education – a hybrid between cost-efficient online schooling and the time-honored Ivy League experience.

Students are to bypass expensive and tedious lectures by taking all courses online, and there will be no traditional campus. However, the university will retain formative college social life by having students live together in dormitories.

Students will pay tuition of $10,000 per year with an additional $19,000 for room and board. While some might fret a $10,000 online degree, this is well below the standard for top U.S. universities, around $50,000 a year.

The curriculum is certain to be world-class, with prominent academics already attached. Bob Kerry, the previous president of New York’s The New School serves on the advisory board, and Stephen Kosslyn, current director of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, recently joined as founding dean.

At its helm is founder Ben Nelson, who served as CEO of Snapfish, a photo sharing and printing website.

Nelson’s venture seeks to prepare students for the modern globalized economy. Matriculates will spend their first year in downtown San Francisco and the remainder of their four years abroad – alternating between dorms in major cities such as São Paulo, Paris and Beijing.

If a cutting-edge experiment in cut-rate education seems appealing, be warned! Competition is living up to its Ivy-high ambitions.

For Minerva’s forthcoming 2014 class of 33 students, the institute received several thousand inquiries from a total of 99 countries.


Thomas Freeman is Texas-transplant and aspiring journalist trying (but often failing) to navigate New York City. A current NYU student, Thomas also writes articles and manages media content for 20to30.

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