Minerva University: Personalized, Global, Affordable and Now Independent

Minerva University

Minerva Institute, a nonprofit that operates a startup college incubated by Keck Graduate Institute at Claremont, recently gained accreditation and became Minerva University.

The Intentional University, as a 2017 book summarizing its early history calls it, is better and more selective than the Ivy League but with a $16,000 sticker price. It attracts the brightest young people on the planet and 80% of students receive need-based financial aid.

Minerva students combine active learning seminars on the Forum platform with fully immersive experiences in seven global cities–Berlin, Buenos Aires, Hyderabad, London, San Francisco, Seoul, and Taipei–taking on projects important to them and the host communities.

Minerva learning experiences focus on four competencies:

  • Thinking critically: evaluating claims, analyzing inference, weighing decisions, and analyzing problems;
  • Thinking creatively: facilitating discovery, solving problems, creating products, processes, and services;
  • Communicating effectively: using language effectively, using nonverbal communication effectively; and
  • Interacting effectively: negotiating, mediating and persuading, working effectively with others, resolving ethical dilemmas, and having social consciousness.

These four competencies are made up of about 100 concepts and habits that are systematically introduced through a structured progression and reinforced throughout each course with intentional overlaps. Concepts and applications become more complex and challenging as learners progress. Minerva students benefit from detailed feedback after each learning experience.

As the industry moves to skills-based hiring, postsecondary education has much to learn from Minerva’s intentional skill-building system that includes well-defined learning goals, active learning, quality feedback, and repeated application.

Minerva has graduated three undergraduate classes totaling over 400 alumni. Learning gains, particularly in critical thinking, have been impressive.

Philanthropic gifts and pledges, totaling more than $100 million, support Minerva’s commitment to needs-based financial aid and need-blind admissions.

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Minerva University uses an academic framework and platform developed by Minerva Project,

a venture-backed San Francisco edtech startup founded by Ben Nelson in 2011. The company has raised $128 million with the last two rounds of funding coming primarily from Chinese tech giants TAL Education Group and ByteDance.

Minerva Project offers instructional design services, high school and college curriculum, and the Forum Learning Environment (it’s what Zoom wants to be when it grows up). The Fully Active Learning pedagogy promotes engagement and deep understanding.

When I met Nelson in a Mission District dive in 2011, he outlined an audacious vision for a next-generation university–one that would give the smartest young people on the planet the gift of the best education ever offered. A decade later, he has accomplished what he set out to do–Minerva University is a respected independent institution offering best-in-class education at an affordable price.

And to extend impact, Minerva Project continues to share the tools that allow other schools and colleges to improve their value proposition through active learning.

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This post was originally published on Forbes.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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